Movie Reviews: A Predictable Disappointment & The Best Movie of 2013

american hustle

Maybe on this New Year’s Day you’ve decided to wait out the hangover by heading to the movie theater. It’s not the worst play to be when you’re recovering from too much partying: It’s dark, the seats are generally comfortable, you’re actually encouraged to eat greasy junk food, and you don’t have to speak to other humans.

Or maybe one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to see more movies (that’s a weird one, try harder next time).

Either way, I wanted to weigh in on two movies I’ve recently seen in the theater: Anchorman 2 and American Hustle. 

Anyone who’s already seen these two movies knows it’s a travesty to compare them. One of them is an over-the-top, zany, hilarious and clever film featuring some of the finest actors Hollywood has to offer. And the other one is Anchorman 2.

Let’s just knock this out of the way quickly: Anchorman 2 wasn’t very good. You can convince me that there were enough individual funny moments to make seeing the movie worthwhile, but if you try to argue that it comes anywhere near the brilliance of the original Anchorman, you’ve lost all credibility with me forever. Maybe in similar fashion to the first Anchorman, this latest installment will prove better the more I watch it. But we’ll have to wait and see. For now, I remain unimpressed. I don’t think I laughed once during the opening 25 minutes, and I was secretly rooting for the film to take a drastic turn where it would focus solely on Brick Tamland & Chani’s amazingly awkward love (Steve Carell and Kristen Wiig).

Don’t see this movie in the theater. Save it for a Netflix night when you only want to laugh a little bit. On the Ross Watchability Scale (RWS), I give it a 4.5 out of 10. 

Now that we’ve gotten than bit of unpleasantness out of the way, let’s turn our attention American Hustle, a comedy-drama crime film that will most certainly be getting some Oscar nominations, both for its actors and its director/screenwriters.

Like other David O. Russell films, it’s tough to do the plot justice via a written description. The movie’s loosely based on an FBI operation from the 1970s (so loosely based, in fact, that the movie opens with these words on the screen: “Some of this actually happened”) that involves a couple of con artists working with the Feds to entrap some of New Jersey’s greedier politicians. Except that the FBI agent leading the operation is almost as incompetent and distractable as the con artists he’s supposed to be in charge of. And while Christian Bale’s con artist Irving Rosenfeld and Bradley Cooper’s FBI agent Richie DiMaso appear to be the people in charge of this cat-and-mouse game, it’s really the women that make the big moves and drive the story. Amy Adams is fantastic as Bale’s partner who ends up in the middle of everything, but Jennifer Lawrence steals the show as Bale’s bitter and unstable wife. I’d estimate Lawrence only had 20 minutes of screen time in this entire movie, but she was so good, she’d better win Best Supporting Actress at the 86h Academy Awards in March or else.. (or else what? Or else I will never attend the Academy Awards no matter how bad they want me there. That’s how serious I am about this.)

If the previous paragraph didn’t sound like much of a plot description, that’s because it’s impossible to appropriately capture all the madcap zaniness of this film. Just know that it was super entertaining the entire time, the acting was amazing and the twists and turns at the end completely legitimize this movie as a crime drama.

You should see this movie if: You enjoy incredible movies; you liked other David O. Russell films; you enjoy seeing today’s best actors submitting possibly their best work of their careers; you gravitate towards movies that have the perfect amount of comedy, drama and intelligent plot; you’re as obsessed with Jennifer Lawrence as I now am; you appreciate outrageous comb-overs and perms; you want to see the most glorious usage of constant side boob ever seen on screen.

You should not see this movie if: I don’t know, actually…if you hate good entertainment, I guess?

On the RWS, I give it a 9.5 out of 10. This is now the highest-rated film of all time using the RWS.

Poor Wolf of Wall Street…before I even see it I know it doesn’t stand a chance to match wits with American Hustle.

Movie Review: Saving Mr. Banks (From What? I Couldn’t Tell You)

mr banks

I understand the holiday season is all about being thankful for your family & friends and giving to others, butttttttttttttttttttttttttt….what if instead of buying people Christmas gifts, I just spend that money on seeing all the potentially awesome movies that have recently come out or are coming out before the end of the month? Would that be OK? What if I spend the money on the movies but illegally video tape those movies and give copies of them to people as Christmas gifts?

Here’s the incomplete list, in no particular order, of movies that are being released in December that I’m interested in:

  • Out Of The Furnace
  • Inside Llewyn Davis
  • American Hustle
  • Saving Mr. Banks
  • Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
  • Her
  • The Wolf of Wall Street
  • Lone Survivor
  • Grudge Match

Just kidding on that last one. I don’t need to see a fake boxing match between two guys whose combined age is 137.

Of course I won’t be able to see all these new movies while they’re in the theater, but the ones I do see I’ll be certain to review so none of you readers accidentally see something terrible during this time of joy. You can bet your bottom dollar (who says that still?) that Anchorman and American Hustle reviews will be coming soon.

And that brings me to today’s review.

It’s tough to fairly rank Saving Mr. Banks because the memory of seeing that movie last weekend comes with the memory of my girlfriend and I having to walk three miles from the theater to our apartment at 12:30a.m. after the movie ended (that’s what happens when the theater is in an area with not a lot of foot traffic after midnight, your phone dies, and the buses are all shut down for the night).

Let me back up for a second because maybe some of you haven’t heard of this movie. It’s the story of the lengthy battle between Walt Disney and the author of Mary Poppins to get that diabetes-promoting nanny (spoonful of sugar? really?) onto the big screen. Wikipedia calls it a “historical comedy-drama” and doesn’t ever mention the movie being based on true events. I’m thinking the movie dramatizes the actual struggle between these main characters enough that they couldn’t market it as “the true story behind how Mary Poppins became a classic movie.”

The most basic way to describe the plot of the movie is this: An angry Australian woman who wrote the book Mary Poppins is playing hardball with Walt Disney as he bends over backwards to buy the rights from her. We see flashbacks to her childhood that show how she had to deal with an alcoholic father and a mother who tried to commit suicide. But we still dislike the adult version of this person because it makes no sense that her tough childhood would cause her to be such an asshole about this transaction. But then the screenwriter and musical composers of the film sing “Let’s Go Fly A Kite” in front of this woman and she suddenly gets up and dances and all ends well….or, more appropriately for a Disney movie, “they all lived happily ever after.”

The movie had many entertaining moments, most of them coming from the hilarious trio that comprised the aforementioned screenwriter and the composer brothers. But my biggest issue leaving the theater was that I would rather have watched the actual movie Mary Poppins than the only-somewhat-interesting backstory of how Walt Disney finally got his hands on that property.

You should see this movie if: You are a huge Disney fan (the person, Walt, or the company); Mary Poppins is one of your favorite movies of all-time; You are so obsessed with Mary Poppins that you’ll sit through a two-hour movie just to hear a couple of the songs from the original movie; you think any movie with Tom Hanks is worth seeing (exactly what drew me to this movie); you like unlikeable main characters.

You should not see this movie if: Slow-moving plots are not your thing; You need lots of action, drama or comedy in your movies; You hated Mary Poppins; You hate Disney (the person or the company); You hate Tom Hanks; You’re scared of kites and/or pears.

On the Ross Watchability Scale (RWS), I give Saving Mr. Banks a 5.5 out of 10. The novelty of it being a sorta behind-the-scenes of the making of Mary Poppins was the only thing that made it interesting…and that carried the movie all the way to slightly above average.

It’s not entirely worthless, but in this holiday season of other awesome movies and other non-movie-watching priorities, I wouldn’t suggest rushing out to the theater to see it. And if you do see it and don’t have “Let’s Go Fly A Kite” in your head for the next 72 hours, then I’m extremely jealous of you.

About Time: For Women, A Movie Preview…For Men, An Important Warning

warning sign

chick flick 1

about time

If you visit this blog often, you’re used to reading my expertly crafted movie reviews. But today I’m delivering my first ever movie preview. For the brain dead in my audience, this means I haven’t actually seen the movie yet.

I should probably clarify: For the women reading this, it’s a preview. For the men, it’s a public service announcement, a warning, a necessary heads-up.

Rachel McAdams is at it again…

The guy who wrote Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary and Love Actually is at it again…

If you haven’t heard of this new movie About Time, get acquainted quickly because it’s about to smack you right in your unsuspecting face. I’m not joking. This movie comes out on November 1st, and if your girlfriend/wife/emotionally-needy partner hasn’t insisted that you take her to see it yet, that’s only because she doesn’t know it exists.

I’ve been with my girlfriend twice when she’s seen the trailer for this movie, once at the theater and once in our living room, and both times she spontaneously melted. I’m talking tears, heavy breathing, audible ooohs and aaahs, and putting her hand over heart like that would stop it from breaking. And both times I could see her thoughts as if they were encapsulated in little bubbles floating over her head: “I wanna see this movie soooo bad, but more importantly, my boyfriend isn’t nearly in love with me enough to travel back in time if it was the only way we could be together.”

It makes no sense, but I know that’s what she’s thinking. While we sat on the couch together watching this preview (she in the state I already mentioned above, me cringing and trying to somehow slink out of the room unnoticed), I could hear her telepathically saying to me, “This guy is so in love with this woman that he’s risking his life for her, and you won’t even go to a couple’s cooking class with me.”

I could try to describe the plot of the movie to you, or you could learn about it in one of two other ways. You could watch the two-minute trailer…

 

Or you could read the very confusing and possibly inaccurate take on Wikipedia: About Time.

The fucking trailer…that’s what gets these women to go all-in on this being the greatest love story ever told. I won’t even disagree with them. Those 152 seconds of preview look magical. Hell, even I want to be with that guy. He’s this cute, innocent kid who discovers time travel, which is all he ever needed to unleash his full powers as a warm, caring, strong, passionate man. as;kleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeb. Whoops. Just passed out on my keyboard from boredom.

But I’m betting the trailer is only showing the good qualities of this guy. I bet when women go see the full movie they’ll be shocked at all the time he spends watching football, setting his fantasy lineups, chugging Bud Lights and picking his nose.

So, men, there are only two ways you can go with this atrocity that’s being released in 12 days: Either suck it up and buy tickets to a showing on opening night so you look like the most caring boyfriend in the world (well, second most caring after that sniveling little Englishman in the movie), or find a reason to delay seeing it and hope your girlfriend’s friends, who are all obviously seeing it on opening weekend, tell her how terrible it was. Then maybe she won’t even want to see it.

Or the third option is suggest she goes to see it with a group of girlfriends. The danger there is that she spends the entire night talking to them about how “I always go see his stupid superhero movies and this was supposed to be my night to pick a movie. Maybe he’s not even the right guy for me. He never does anything I wanna do.”

And you don’t want that happening…or do you?

I’m just the messenger here. This chick flick train is barreling down the tracks. It’s on a collision course with your life. And there’s really nothing you can do to stop it.

Good luck.

Movie Review: Captain Phillips (Come For Tom Hanks, Stay For The Pirates)

captain phillps 1

At the beginning of Captain Phillips we see Tom Hanks (playing the role of Captain Richard Phillips) preparing for a job assignment that will take him across oceans to the other side of the world. We know that his job is to deliver packages, and we see that he’s leaving his loved ones as his wife drives him to the airport. We also have a pretty strong suspicion that this won’t be an ordinary trip for him.

And as soon as we process all of that information we think, “Wait a sec, I’ve seen this exact movie before. It’s called Castaway. Why are they re-showing Castaway under the guise of a new movie? And how quickly do I have to sprint to the ticket window to get a refund?”

But not to worry, fellow moviegoer, because this is nothing like Castaway. In this movie Tom Hanks isn’t accompanied across the ocean by a benevolent, inanimate volleyball, but rather four Somalian pirates hellbent on cashing in on a big payday.

Captain Phillips is an action/thriller based on true events that occurred off the Somalian coast in April 2009. If you remember that time period, it seemed like we were constantly hearing news about American ships getting attacked by Somalian pirates. This movie focuses on the Maersk Alabama, a cargo ship captained by Phillips that was bringing to Africa, among other items, water and food supplies to the 3rd world countries.

As alert to the pirating in that part of the world as Phillips and his crew were, their security and escape tactics fail at the worst possible time when four armed Somalians chase down their ship and ultimately board it. At that point it’s a virtual stalemate between Phillips and his captors. The Somalians control things in one sense because they have guns pointed at Phillips and his crew. But they need help and cooperation from that very crew because they don’t know anything about the super-sized ship they just boarded.

The cat and mouse game escalates from the ship to a lifeboat, and Phillips finds himself in the middle of it all as he becomes the asset the pirates are looking to trade in exchange for millions of dollars.

Hanks’ performance was solid, and I’m sure it’ll generate plenty of Oscar buzz, but I walked out of the theater even more impressed by the actors who played the four pirates. And when I learned that none of them had ever really acted before, I was floored. My hunch is that when you see the movie, you’ll agree with me that the actor who plays the leader of this group steals the show and might find himself with some Supporting Actor nominations during awards season.

What the movie does really well is establish the desperate motivation for these pirates’ actions early on. Even though what they’re doing is wrong, you understand exactly how it could come to this.

I also appreciate that the people making this movie fought off every urge to turn the main character into an action hero or superhero. It would have been so easy to fall back on the tried and true Hollywood template of “main character singlehandedly saves the day by vanquishing the bad guys with borderline superhero powers.” They showed restraint and kept Phillips grounded in reality the whole time.

You should see this movie if: You love nonstop tension/suspense enough that you have no problem literally being on the edge of your seat and white knuckling it for nearly two hours. You enjoy Tom Hanks as much as I do, and you’ll basically see any movie starring him. You want to see some unexpectedly great acting performances from some first time actors. You enjoy “based on a true story” movies.

You should not see this movie if: Holding your breath and having your heart constantly pounding are not physical reactions you enjoy experiencing from movies. You hate Tom Hanks. You had a family member actually involved in a pirating situation and don’t want to relive those awful stories or memories. Thrillers are not your cup of tea. You only care for movies that have a big love story and/or lots of humor. Your fear of claustrophobic spaces is so intense that even seeing something like that in a movie will cause you to hyperventilate. You are a jerk who doesn’t like good movies.

On the Ross Watchability Scale (RWS), I give it a 7.5 out of 10.

So if you’re deciding on a movie to see in the theater this weekend, I’d still give the slightest edge to Gravity over Captain Phillips. But that’s purely because Gravity is a movie you must see on a big screen, preferably in 3-D. That being said, Captain Phillips has the better story.

Movie Review: Gravity (A Must-See in 3-D)

gravity2

So what’s the deal with that movie where Sandra Bullock is floating around in space? You know, the movie whose previews have given us nothing beyond “Sandra Bullock is lost in space.” The one that George Clooney’s rumored to be in even though you never see him in the previews or on any of the movie posters.

For my benefit and yours, I went to check it out this week in my favorite time slot: Tuesday afternoon, where I’m joined at the theater only by retired people and criminals trying to duck out of the public spotlight for a couple hours.

The movie is a sci-fi/thriller called Gravity. It stars Sandra Bullock as a bio-medical engineer making her maiden voyage into space to fix part of the Hubble Telescope. If a movie about things gone wrong in space automatically makes you think of Armageddon, then Bullock would be playing the Ben Affleck role. And that means George Clooney is channeling his inner Bruce Willis, playing the old grizzled veteran making his last expedition and helping the scared protege get through a rough first experience.

Gravity is actually nothing like Armageddon, so please don’t be scared off by that comparison. One blockbuster that I’ve heard people comparing it to is Castaway. That makes a little sense because both films start off with an unsuspecting person getting stranded in an unknown, almost unsurvivable place. But the similarities end there. While Castaway overwhelms us with the human side of the story—Tom Hanks’ primal struggle for survival on an uninhabited island with no companion and no real hope of returning to his loved ones—Gravity overwhelms us with the brilliance and tension of being lost in space.

To put it another way, we don’t care as much about the characters and what’s in store for them if they get home safely in Gravity as we do in Castaway.

Instead we focus on the in-the-moment plot. Is the satellite debris going to hit their shuttle? Does the escape pod have fuel? What happens when her oxygen runs out?

And the best use of 3-D I’ve ever seen…we focus a lot on that too. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s the best 3-D movie I’ve seen from a visual standpoint. Yes, better than Avatar. It’s just the perfect movie for that technology. If you have the option to see this movie in 3-D and you choose not to, I hope you regret it for the rest of your life.

You should see this movie if: You loved Apollo 13. You enjoy suspension-filled thrillers. You are OK with a little “odd couple buddy adventure” mixed into your serious movie. You’re obsessed with all things Sandra Bullock. You seek out movies that are visually captivating. You appreciate a movie whose broad subject matter can be whittled down and focused on just the important 90 minutes. You want to see 3-D used on the exact right movie.

You should not see this movie if: Getting a full cavity search sounds more pleasant than sitting through a sci-fi space adventure. You couldn’t care less about 3-D and the visual aspect of a movie. You have it out for Sandra Bullock and think she probably drove Jesse James to cheat on her. You know you’ll obsess the whole time over which plot points are realistic and which aren’t (for example: Is it realistic that an astronaut would be able to use a shuttle’s backup landing thrusters to propel her nearly 100 miles to a very specific landing spot on the Chinese Space Station? I don’t know and I don’t care).

On the Ross Watchability Scale (RWS), I give it an 8 out of 10. Without the 3-D component, it might merely be a 6 out of 10.

Speaking of 3-D, it turns out they accidentally showed us the first 20 minutes of Gravity in 2-D, but no one had spoken up or complained by the time a theater employee announced that they were restarting the movie in 3-D. How does no one in a group of 30 people complain about this screwup? You’d think people had to notice it. There’s a pretty big difference between the two viewing experiences. What’s my excuse? Well I hate admitting this, but when I was growing up I could never do those “Magic Eye” optical illusion things. I’d stare at them in the mall for hours and would eventually start crying when I couldn’t see the 3-D image like all the other kids (it was always a stupid fucking dolphin in the middle of the poster). So even though those first 20 minutes of the movie looked off to me, who was I to speak up? The guy who can’t even see a hidden image that most 3rd graders can figure out was going to complain about not being able to see the 3-D movie? And risk being told that it is, in fact, in 3-D already? No thank you.

Fall TV Preview: Ending Our Preview Series With Some Family Time

mike omalley

The final day of our Fall TV Preview has us looking at three brand new shows, all of which fall under the pure sitcom umbrella. They are all about families. Parents moving in with their adult children, two separate families forced together suddenly, a single Dad trying to raise his daughter Danny Tanner style.

They all have at least some potential, but they could all be cliche, tired, laugh-tracky failures. Tough to tell which way they’ll go based on the trailers so the only way to really know is to watch an episode or two.

Let’s take a look at these shows premiering on Thursday, October 3rd:

The Millers

When & Where: 8:30pm on CBS

What: A family sitcom where a recently-divorced woman moves in with her recently-divorced son. He’s trying to reignite his bachelorhood and the fun stuff that comes with it, but of course the Mom is always there ruining his good times.

Who: Will Arnett, Beau Bridges and Margo Martindale are the main characters. The show was created by Greg Garcia, who previously created My Name Is Earl and Raising Hope.

Ross’s Take: This is apparently the “in” thing in TV sitcoms these days. We previously previewed Mom and Dads, two separate shows where parents of the main characters are re-entering the picture whether their child wants them to or not. This looks the same. Putting Mom and her adult son in this strange situation where they have to learn to live together. I don’t think it’ll be terrible, but I do fear that GOB Bluth will never find a long term TV show again. I give it a 2.5 out of 5.

Julie’s Take: I think the premise is a little unrealistic, but I’ll pretty much watch anything with Will Arnett in it. I’m giving it a 5 out of 5. (I’d like to clarify that I think the premise is funny even though it’s unrealistic.)

Welcome To The Family

When & Where: 8:30pm on NBC

What: A sitcom about two very different families that are forced to bond when the slacker daughter in one family gets knocked up by a Stanford-bound son in the other family. Apparently the families come from different cultures and backgrounds so there will be lots of disagreements and misunderstandings.

Who: Mike O’Malley of Guts fame.

Ross’s Take: The story doesn’t interest me at all, but I could see people liking this show because they might enjoy some of the characters. That’s why so many shows that you & I think are lame end up sticking around and doing well. We look at the plot as well as the characters, but a lot of people out there will watch anything, no matter how cliche or unbelievable the storyline, just because they enjoy the characters. I don’t see myself watching more than one episode. Let’s give it a 1.5 out of 5.

Julie’s Take: For the record, I don’t think it has staying power because the storyline’s so weak. But I love Mike O’Malley and I think he’ll get a few laughs. That’s it. It’s getting an almost 3 out of 5 from me.

Sean Saves The World

When & Where: 9:00pm on NBC

What: A story about a divorced gay Dad with a successful career whose teenage daughter moves in with him full time. He’s forced to find time for his work life and his new family life. And of course he knows nothing about raising a teenage girl.

Who: Sean Hayes, of Will & Grace fame. Thomas Lennon, of Reno 9-1-1 fame.

Ross’s Take: Not for me. I bet people who liked Will & Grace will love it because that guy seems like a good actor. But doesn’t tickle my fancy. I’ll watch one episode and for now give it a 2 out of 5.

Julie’s Take: Since we don’t know why the Mom’s not in the picture at all, I’m struggling to give this a true rating until I know the full backstory. It seems a little “Full Housey” with the single Dad and heartfelt stories and lessons at the end of episodes. But I like the mean boss twist. I’m giving it a 2.5 out of 5.

 

There you have it. Twenty-four new and returning show previews in the books. Hopefully you all found a show or two to enjoy this year. If not, you’re probably some weirdo who hates TV. Good luck with that.

Fall TV Preview: Will Tonight Really Be Super Fun?

super fun night

My second to last Fall TV Preview. Almost brings a tear to my eyes.

Hopefully because of my previews you were able to find one or two gems out of the multitude of garbage being shown on TV right now (Dads, Mom, How I Met Your Mother, New Girl, Back In The Game…these all qualify as garbage shows).

I’m not sure we have any shows in the final two previews that will qualify as gems, but you’ll have to make that decision for yourself.

For today, Wednesday, October 2nd, we have just one new show on the schedule. Here it is:

Super Fun Night

When & Where: 9:30pm on ABC

What: A comedy about three women who love having no social life? That seems to be the case as they chant “always together, always inside” before staying indoors every Friday night. But when the main character, Kimmie, gets a promotion at a law firm, she’s pressured by her co-workers to go out and party. So she drags her two antisocial friends out to a club. And I’m sure funny stuff happens.

Who: Rebel Wilson, who you should know as Kristen Wiig’s roommate’s sister in Bridesmaids. The show is executive produced by Conan O’Brien.

Ross’s Take: One thing I didn’t point out in the Monday preview for We Are Men was its potential to be a one-trick pony. And that’s exactly what it seems to be…a show that gets it laughs only from men talking condescendingly about women and treating them equally bad. I’m worried Super Fun Night will also be of the one-trick pony variety. I think it’ll get its laughs from a larger, awkward woman trying to split her time between her best friends and their antisocial agenda and her co-workers and their extroverted, partying lifestyle. I think I’ll enjoy pieces of the show, but not enough to watch every episode. I’m giving this a 2.5 out of 5.

Julie’s Take: I love Rebel Wilson and I want to be friends with her. I’m going to love this show. I give it a 4.5 out of 5.

 

One more preview coming up on Thursday and then your DVRs should be spoken for until January.

Fall TV Preview: TV Feels So Insignificant In The post-Breaking Bad World

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It seems ridiculous this morning to be previewing new TV shows after saying goodbye to one of the best shows of all time just about 12 hours ago (Breaking Bad obviously). It’s like if a widower set up a Match.com profile while standing in the receiving line at his late wife’s wake. Too soon.

But of course the shows must go on. After a brain-frying 12 hours of TV on Sunday, it’s a good thing we only need to review one show for tonight. It’s a brand new show that I’m guessing some people are going to love and some are going to hate. No in between.

Here it is.

We Are Men

When & Where: 8:30pm on CBS

What: A comedy about a guy who gets left at the altar and the fallout from that disastrous moment. For some reason he has to move into a short-term apartment rental complex where many other recently-single men live. And obviously they bond. Most likely they make a lot of raunchy man jokes. And almost definitely they try to act like college frat boys.

Who: Kal Penn (of Harold & Kumar fame), Jerry O’Connell (of stealing John Stamos’ wife fame) and Tony Shaloub (of Monk fame) are all featured actors on the show.

Ross’s Take: This whole thing makes me sad because the opening 30 seconds of the trailer looks exactly like the opening of the most recently great-TV-show-to-be-cancelled, Happy Endings. But aside from that, I get the sense this show will have some hilarious moments and some awfully cliche and uninspiring moments. I could totally imagine a scenario where watching this show makes you feel like you’re watching a group of old sleazy men desperately trying to hit on good looking women at a bar. My guess is that the unfunny stuff will dominate the funny stuff, which means I’m only giving this show a 2 out of 5.

Julie’s Take: The setup in the beginning looks largely unoriginal, but it looks OK and I like a lot of the actors. I give it a 3 out of 5.

 

After the past two weeks, we have a very light schedule of premiering shows this week, and then no blogworthy TV premieres until the new year when shows like Game of Thrones return. Hope you’re enjoying some of the new Fall shows.

Fall TV Preview: Robin Williams vs Michael J. Fox For Thursday Night Supremecy

michael j fox robin williams

It’s finally here. The night none of us have been waiting for. The night where Robin Williams and Michael J. Fox make their glorious returns to TV (separately, not together).  And they’ll actually be direct competition to each other as both shows air at 9:00pm. Of course with Fox we’re curious and uneasy about his Parkinson’s disease and how he’ll do as a lead actor expected to carry a TV show. And with Williams, it’s more of a horrific freeway accident that you can’t take your eyes off. How over the top will he be? How quickly can we change the channel?

Lucky for you, if you’re not interested in checking out their new shows, there are still a couple solid returning shows tonight. So you’ve got options.

Let’s see what those options are for Thursday, September 26th:

Returning Shows

Parks & Recreation

When & Where: 8:00pm on NBC

What: A workplace comedy that revolves around the government employees of a small-town parks department. Their leader is a hopelessly optimistic public servant who idolizes Hilary Clinton just a tad too much.

Who: Amy Poehler stars as Leslie Knope but the cast around her is just as famous: Rob Lowe, Adam Scott, Aziz Ansari, Rashida Jones, Nick Offerman, Chris Pratt. It’s a gold mine of awesome comedic actors.

Ross’s Take: Yesterday I threw around the gold standard tag when talking about Modern Family, but now I feel like I’ve cheated on Parks & Rec. I can’t decide between the two of them, honestly. Maybe I’ll just call both of them the gold standard and hope they don’t find out about each other? When it’s all said & done years from now, this show might be more memorable than The Office (a show it’s often compared to).

Julie’s Take: 4 out of 5 because I can’t be giving out so many 5’s, and it’s not better than Modern Family…but then I did give Dads 4 out of 5…hmm….4.75 for Parks & Recreation.

 

The Big Bang Theory

When & Where: 8:00pm on CBS

What: A sitcom about a group of socially awkward, nerdy scientist friends who work and hang out together.

Who: Jim Parsons and Johnny Galecki play the main characters. Kaley Cuoco plays their normal, social, not nerdy neighbor.

Ross’s Take: After resisting this show for years without ever watching it, I finally gave it a chance last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. For me the humor typically comes from the main character, Sheldon. He plays the socially inept, OCD-ish, asperger-y personality perfectly and just to listen to him deal with certain situations and people is amazing. I’m giving it a 3.5 out of 5.

Julie’s Take: This is a 5 out of 5 for Sheldon, the main character. But 4.5 for the rest of the show in general.

 

New Shows

The Michael J. Fox Show

When & Where: 9:00pm on NBC

What: Based on the title and the fact that it’s loosely based on Michal J. Fox’s actual life, you can probably guess what it’s about. But basically “Mike Henry,” who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease five years ago, decides to get back to work, where he used to be a news anchor.

Who: Michael J. Fox, Betsy Brandt (Marie from Breaking Bad)

Ross’s Take: The natural reaction to finding out this show exists is to wonder if Michael J. Fox is in good enough condition to be the lead on a weekly TV show. Time will tell, I guess. More important to me is his track record. When has he ever done a bad show or movie? He’s been great in everything he’s ever been in, I’m pretty sure. So I’m giving this show the benefit of the doubt for now, but I’m treading lightly. It’s a 3 out of 5 for me.

Julie’s Take: I give it a 2.5 out of 5. I didn’t realize it was based on his real life so that makes me more interested.

 

The Crazy Ones

When & Where: 9:00pm on CBS

What: A comedy about a father-daughter ad agency team where the father is the charming, off-the-walls, old-school business type, and the daughter is the tightly wound, overly worried and serious type.

Who: Robin Williams is the father, Sarah Michelle Gellar is the daughter.

Ross’s Take: Part of me thinks this show won’t work because of Robin Williams, but part of me thinks it wouldn’t work without him. He actually made me laugh a few times while watching the trailer, like the part where they make up the jingle on the spot at the restaurant. But his personality is just so obnoxiously big I worry it’ll be a typical “roll your eyes at Robin Williams’ stupid voices and impressions” situation. I can’t ignore the legitimately funny moments in the preview, much funnier than some of the other shows we’ve talked about in this space. I give it a 2 out of 5.

Julie’s Take: I give it a 2 out of 5 because I like Robin Williams but never really liked “Michelle Gellar”, but I’ll watch it.

 

Sunday Bonus

Homeland returns! But here’s the thing. I’ve only watched season one because season two just got released on Netflix within the last two weeks and I haven’t gotten the discs yet (god forbid they put it on Netflix Instant). I expect to DVR the new episodes because I finally have Showtime, but first I’ll binge watch season two as soon as possible. This show will probably take over Breaking Bad’s place in terms of drama TV show that I get way too into. If season two and beyond is as good as season one, I’m all in on it.

Fall TV Preview: The Comedy Gold Standard Returns

Little-Giants

Last Wednesday I gave you Survivor for your homework. Hopefully you’re all excited to watch Colton turn into the most hated person in America (again) every Wednesday for the next four months.

This Wednesday brings another light assignment as I’m only requiring you to watch one show, and it happens to be the best comedy on TV. If you want extra credit, you can give the brand new show a whirl, but I don’t think it’s worth your time.

Let’s discuss the two shows worth your consideration for Wednesday, September 25th:

Returning Show

Modern Family

When & Where: 9:00pm on ABC

What: I can’t imagine there’s someone reading this who hasn’t heard of Modern Family. But fine, here it goes: It’s a family comedy based on three intertwined families that stem from a father and his two kids (and their families). There’s the traditional family (husband, wife, three kids), the gay parents and their adopted Vietnamese child, and the patriarch of the whole group with his Colombian trophy wife and her teenage son.

Who: Ed O’Neill, Julie Bowen, Sofia Vergara, Ty Burrell, everyone, really.

Ross’s Take: The gold standard of the current TV comedy is going strong heading into its fifth season. Modern Family will be on top for a while because it has incredible characters, the best writing, and constantly evolving and ripe-for-the-picking family situations based on the kids growing up, the parents getting new jobs, or childlike adult Phil Dunphy misreading a situation so bad that he finds himself watching a football game with his shirt off in the company of a gay man who thinks Phil wants to sleep with him. This is basically the one comedy that I have to watch the night it airs, and it’s getting a 4.5 out of 5 from me (The “5” designation is exclusively saved for shows like The Wire, Breaking Bad and the heyday of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia).

Julie’s Take: I mean, what’s to say…10 out of 5 (shaking her head at me like I’m an idiot for asking).

New Show

Back In The Game

When & Where: 8:30pm on ABC

What: Little Giants as a baseball-centric TV show. Seriously, the synopsis on Wikipedia reads like a TV adaptation for that 1994 Rick Moranis-Ed O’Neill football movie. A bunch of kids are rejected by the mean coach from playing on the team, so the dorky nobody of a parent organizes her own team with all the rejected kids…

Who: Maggie Lawson is mother who coaches the losers and James Caan is her overbearing, used-to-be-an-athlete father.

Ross’s Take: I don’t think I’m biting on this one. I’m pretty sure I nailed the premise with my Little Giants comparison, which means the laughs are going to be predictable (this ragtag bunch of dorky kids are trying to play a sport!!). Even the relationship between the mom and her dad seems cliche and not something that’s going to interest me. I’m giving it a 1.5 out of 5 and only DVR’ing it because of my roommate’s enthusiasm over it (see below).

Julie’s Take: It’s a nice mix of The Sandlot and My Girl…I give it a 4 out of 5. It looks heartfelt!

That’s all for today. Stay tuned for Thursday’s lineup where we’ll be welcoming back a couple actors who haven’t starred in a TV show in a loooong time (and for good reason).

Fall TV Preview: Tuesday Nights Just Got Busy

goldbergs

One week ago we previewed four Tuesday night shows , two returning and two brand new. They were all comedies, and none of them are really the type where you’d need to start from the very first episode if you want to get into them. So in case you didn’t check out the premieres of those shows last week, here’s how I’d prioritize them if I were you:

  1. The Mindy Project
  2. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
  3. New Girl
  4. Dads – But only if there’s a major glitch with your cable or satellite provider that forces you to keep the TV on FOX.

And tonight, four more shows start up that you may want to check out. They’re all brand new, and they’re all on ABC. So now you’re potentially juggling eight shows on Tuesday. Except some of these will obviously fall out of favor quickly. I can tell you that in my home Dads is probably getting bumped from the DVR-recording schedule after tonight, and there’s at least one show in these four we’re about to preview that won’t make the cut.

Six is much more manageable than eight!

Here are the four new ABC shows that are worth a look tonight:

The Goldbergs

When & Where: 9:00pm on ABC

What: Remember when someone tried to capitalize on the That ‘70s Show popularity and created That ‘80s Show? I barely remember either, but it actually did happen. Well The Goldbergs is basically a family-centric version of that short-lived spinoff. It’s semi-autobiographical as the creator actually grew up in the 80s and videotaped his family doing weird stuff. And he’s bringing all the dynamics of his real family to this show. So think of it as a family sitcom set in the 80s with the exact type of characters you’d expect roaming around the 1980s.

Who: Jeff Garlin plays the father, Murray Goldberg. And Wendy McLendon-Covey plays the mother, Beverly Goldberg.

Ross’s Take: It’s got a lot of potential. I’m basing that mostly on the trailer, which is always risky to do because they might have used up all their good jokes in that four-minute preview. Just the fact that it’s a non-CBS sitcom makes it worth a try in my opinion. If you grew up in the 80s, you gotta check this out. There’s a good chance we’ll be able to do a lot of laughing at the parents in this show who remind us way too much of our own parents from that time period. And if you raised kids in the 80s, you probably wanted to laugh a lot at the insanity of childhood and adolescence, but you couldn’t laugh in your own kids’ faces back then. So now’s your chance to tune in and remember what was so funny about being a parent in that decade. What do you have to lose? 30 minutes of your precious lives? I’ll give it a 3.5 out of 5 and hopefully I’m being a little conservative.

Julie’s Take: Ooh, I like it! It’s like a revamped Wonder Years. I’m giving it a 5 out of 5.

Trophy Wife

When & Where: 9:30pm on ABC

What: A family comedy about a woman who marries a twice-divorced man and has to co-exist with his two ex-wives and the handful of kids he produced in those previous relationships.

Who: Bradley Whitford plays the husband, Malin Akerman plays the new wife.

Ross’s Take: It feels a bit too ridiculous and forced. And unrealistic. This woman marries a guy and immediately has to be in charge of all his kids and their relationships with their moms, who undoubtedly hate her for being the young, hot wife. I don’t think we’re even bothering to watch the first episode. I give it a 0.5 out of 5.

Julie’s Take: I want to give it a 0 out of 5, but I’ll start it off with a 1 out of 5.

(I can tell you that only other contribution she made when we finished watching the preview was shaking her head and making that face people make when they dislike the food they just tried. Probably not good for this show’s chances.)

Lucky 7

When & Where: 10:00pm on ABC

What: A drama about seven gas station employees in Queens, New York, who split a lottery ticket every week. And when they finally win the jackpot, some of their wildest dreams come true…but the money also creates plenty of problems.

Who: Nobody any of us have ever heard of. It’s an ensemble cast, and I can’t make out anyone in the cast who I know from previous work. Lots of unknowns.

Ross’s Take: As a successful TV and movie writer, there’s been several times in the past few years when a new show or film comes out that looks similar to an idea I have written down on a scrap of paper in a folder somewhere on my desk. This is one of those times. So of course I’m intrigued. My movie idea was about a group of friends who win the lottery together and then problems arise as the group dynamic changes and some personalities change. I bet this show is better than anything I could have created so I’m hoping for big things. I’ll go with a 3.5 out of 5, which seems to be my max rating on a show I haven’t seen yet.

Julie’s Take: I’m giving it a 3 out of 5 because I’m intrigued. But I am worried it’s gonna go dark and sad eventually.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

When & Where: 8:00pm on ABC

What: The name of the show pretty much tells you what you need to know. It’s a comic book/superhero show that looks like a grander scale version of the TV show Heroes. People with super powers find each other and team up to defeat the bad guys.

Who: Legendary sci-fi/superhero creator/writer/director Joss Whedon created this show and wrote the pilot. It’ll be interesting to see what the show looks like past the pilot when he’s not the one writing it anymore.

Ross’s Take: A superhero show that seems to have a big enough budget to have great special effects & action scenes and created by a guy who’s already had a ton of success with The Avengers movie. Sign me up. This could be the perfect post-Breaking Bad hour-long TV show. It probably won’t require a significant emotional investment, but will be a very pleasing visual experience. Mindless viewing makes it sound bad, but it could be good watching when you’re checked out mentally after a long day of work.

I’ll pre-rank it a 3.5 out of 5, obviously.

Julie’s Take: I didn’t even give Julie an opportunity to review this show because I’m certain she’s not into comic book content. I don’t think this would keep her attention for longer than 10 seconds.

If I’m guessing ahead of time how I’ll ultimately rank these eight Tuesday night shows once I’ve seen them all, it goes like this:

  1. The Mindy Project
  2. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
  3. The Goldbergs 
  4. Lucky 7
  5. New Girl
  6. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
  7. Dads
  8. Trophy Wife

Do what you want with that info. We’ll be back tomorrow with just one brand new show and one returning show.

Fall TV Preview: CBS Celebrates Mother’s Day?

josh-radnor

If I was excited about tonight’s new and returning TV shows, I might start this article by writing “Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!”

Tonight CBS is doubling down with mom-themed shows. There’s the old standby How I Met Your Mother beginning its final season, and the brand new Mom setting sail on its maiden voyage.

As was the case last week, we’ve reviewed the potential of both shows for you below. I hate spoilers as much as the next guy, but I’ll at least tell you that you probably won’t be sprinting to your nearest remote control to add these shows to your DVR list before they air tonight.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that later in the week there will be some legitimately interesting shows to review. Until then, enjoy the live-audience programming that tens of millions of people apparently love.

New Show

Mom

When & Where: 9:30pm on CBS

What: A family sitcom about a recovering alcoholic single mom who has a mom of her own who’s also an alcoholic/bad influence. It feels like the mother-daughter version of Two Broke Girls (a comparison you’d only understand if you currently watch that horrific CBS show, which starts back up tonight…but we won’t be reviewing it because once again, it’s terrible).

Who: Anna Faris plays the lead role, and Allison Janney plays her mom. And Badger from Breaking Bad plays the father of Anna Faris’ daughter.

Ross’s Take: Pass. I know there’s going to be an audience for this show because it comes from the Chuck Lorre/CBS factory (together they’ve created Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory and Mike & Molly, all current CBS hits). So if you’re a fan of those other shows, you’ll probably want to check out Mom. But other than The Big Bang Theory, I can’t stand the live-audience sitcoms. The humor is…unintelligent? nonexistent? stuff that I might have found funny 10 years ago? You know how it goes…there are people whose sense of humor gravitates towards things like Arrested Development and Parks & Recreation, and then there are people who get their comedy rocks off to the dull CBS shows of the world. It’s not wrong of you to like these shows. It just means you’re less educated than the rest of us.

I give this show a 1 out of 5, but like all of the shows in my previews, I’ll watch the first episode and recalibrate if I have to.

Julie’s Take: The trailer didn’t make me laugh and couldn’t even keep my attention. I give it a 2 out of 5, so I’m still giving it a chance. And I don’t want to sound like a mean person because I’m sure Anna Faris is a good person and funny, but I just don’t find her funny at all.

(I can attest to the fact that this is the first TV trailer out of all the previews we’ve done where she walked away in the middle. And not even to do something more interesting…she went to straighten her hair rather than finish watching.)

Returning Show

How I Met Your Mother

When & Where: 8:00pm on CBS

What: A sitcom that centers around five friends living in New York in their early 30s, with a specific focus on Ted Mosby’s never-ending search for his soulmate.

Who: Main characters are played by Neil Patrick Harris, Alyson Hannigan and Jason Segel. The other two main actors are apparently terrible and you wouldn’t have seen them in anything else.

Ross’s Take: I already poured my heart out in August about the most troubling aspect of this show: that the stakes of whiney douchebag Ted finding his true love aren’t high enough to keep me invested as the show continually strings us along to that fateful meeting between him and the future mother. And for a show that used to be genuinely funny, it’s become genuinely unfunny. And let’s face it, if you’ve never watched this show before today, you’re not going to start now. Too many inside jokes and humor that’s derived from previous episodes. And if you have watched every episode to this point, my negative review probably isn’t going to sway you. But I won’t back down from my stance in that August article that after watching the first eight years of this show, I’m quitting with only 20 episodes left.

Julie’s Take: I hate that show but I am gonna watch it for sure. I would not miss it. I give it a 4.5 out of 5 in that I’m definitely going to watch it, but I give it only a 2.5 out of 5 for how much I actually like it.

We’ll be back tomorrow with a handful of shows that might actually have promise. Stay tuned.

Fall TV Preview: Friday Night’s Only Show

Shark Tank

Ahh, the weekend. A time to get out of the house and enjoy our beautiful world, even if you’re only going outdoors because there is absolutely nothing on TV during this time of the week.

You never see worthwhile television programs on Saturdays unless you like sports (both the main stream sports like college football and the obscurities like the World Track & Field Championships) or movies that you should have seen on HBO months ago. There’s nothing else.

Fridays are generally where TV shows go to die. When a network show is really struggling in its Monday-Thursday timeslot, oftentimes you’ll see it moved to Fridays to play out the string before cancellation.  

But there’s one show that’s bucked this trend over the past four years. It’s a show that works perfectly for Friday nights because it’s not something you ever feel you have to watch right away. You can DVR it and still go enjoy your Friday night. But once you get sucked into this show like I did three years ago, I have a feeling you’ll be making excuses to leave the bar early in order to watch this fantastic show.

Shark Tank

When & Where: 9:00pm on ABC

What: A reality show where aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their business idea to a group of potential investors (known as “sharks”). Quite simply, someone comes into the shark tank with a product they’ve only recently begun selling and try to entice at least one investor into buying a stake in the company in exchange for a chunk of cash (known in the business world as an investment). The sharks either laugh the business right out of the tank or start negotiating with the person for a better deal.

Who: The only name you’d recognize on the panel of sharks is Mark Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks owner. There’s a shark who is well known on QVC. The founder and CEO of FUBU clothing company is also a shark.

Ross’s Take: Typically I’m not a reality show person, but Shark Tank is an exception. Part of the attraction for me is the David vs Goliath feel to the show. You’ve got these five billionaires staring down these cute little business people who just want some investment money and a business mentor for their homemade vegan cookie business (or their “sweatshirt that doubles as a blanket” business), and you always feel so good for the entrepreneur when they get a deal. In the classic reality competition blueprint, they show some ideas that are fantastic and immediately get offers from the sharks, and other ideas that are TERRIBLE and get ripped to shreds by the sharks. It’s the business version of watching a horrific singer during the American Idol tryouts.

While I’m fascinated by the negotiation when it’s a good idea, I tend to enjoy the people who bungle their sales pitch or just have a crappy idea a lot more. You can see a quick list of all the ideas that have been pitched on the show and whether or not they got a deal by going HERE.

Here are a couple of my favorite ideas that did not (shockingly) get deals:

  • A “lunchable” for dogs where the guy essentially splits up regular dog food into a compartmentalized plastic container. He puts a small amount of water in there too and says it will revolutionize the way dog owners travel. One of the sharks points out that a plastic Ziploc bag could do the same thing.
  • A couple guys who want money to make a movie based on motorcycling called “Track Days”. They don’t have a script, actors or anyone to produce it. But they have lots of motorcycle sound effects.
  • And my favorite: The Sullivan Generator, which produces energy from the earth’s rotation while providing pure drinking water from ocean water AND spitting out gold as a by-product. A simple product that creates usable energy, drinking water and gold. How could that not be a slam dunk?

I give the Shark Tank a 4 out of 5. It’ll never get old because we get to see new crazy idea after new crazy idea. You will not be disappointed if you start watching this show. And for those of you who already watch this show and want to spice it up a bit, I found a blog that created a drinking game out of the show. It’s pretty entertaining.

Julie’s Take: “It’s my favorite show. Robert is my favorite shark from a personality standpoint, but Mark is my actual favorite shark because he always makes offers on things and Robert almost never does. I also think two of the sharks are having an affair (Kevin and Barbara). I like watching the good ideas more than the bad ideas. I give it a 4.5 out of 5. It’s only not a 5 because I don’t feel like I have to watch it immediately when it airs.”

(Side Note: I wonder how many times during all these TV preview blogs Julie’s going to say “It’s my favorite show” or “it’s the best.” I’m thinking at least 15.)

Fall TV Preview: Returning Shows on Wednesday, September 18th

fall TV

Yesterday’s Fall TV premieres on FOX were really just a tease because the schedule is particularly light with new & returning shows for the rest of the week. Next week is when the real action begins.

As a matter of fact, you won’t be seeing a TV preview blog from me on Thursday because there’s nothing on that night.

Tonight there are no brand new shows but a couple returning shows that might be worth your time. Let’s jump into the season premieres for Wednesday, September 18th:

Survivor: Blood vs Water

When & Where: 8:00pm on CBS

What: A reality game show where contestants have to outwit, outplay and outlast each other while surviving isolation in the wilderness for up to 39 days. The person deemed “sole survivor” at the end wins a $1 Million reward.

Who: In its 27th installment, Survivor is bringing back a bunch of former contestants paired with their loved ones. Also, Jeff Probst, the show’s host, is simply the greatest host/moderator/instigator in TV history.

Ross’s Take: People tend to be surprised that this show is still going strong after 13 years of being on the air, but I promise you it’s the only reality game show worth watching. The basic rules are still the same—16-20 people compete in physical and mental challenges while roughing it for nearly six weeks in the wilderness, all while trying to make alliances and ensure they won’t be voted out by their tribe mates—but in recent seasons there have been twists to keep the show from getting stale (Survivor All-Stars, Survivor Heroes vs Villains, a twist where you can get back in the game after being voted out if you survive a competition with other exiled contestants on a separate island). It appears this season’s twist is that half the players are former contestants and the other half are their loved ones. Two brothers, a mother-daughter combo, an uncle-niece combo, etc… From what I can tell, the contestants think they are teaming up with their loved ones, but as soon as they get to the Philippines they’ll find out they’re competing against each other.

This show’s major appeal for me is the buffoonery that usually goes on throughout the season. Without fail, someone will get voted off while holding onto an immunity idol (a “get out of jail free”-like object that can save the person who possesses it as long as they play it before that episode’s votes are read by Probst). Or in extreme cases, someone will give up his immunity necklace (which he won with a hard-fought physical challenge) because some woman with attractive breasts convinces him it’s the right move for the tribe. And then that woman will immediately orchestrate that moron’s ouster from the game. More often than not, we’ll get to see a certifiably crazy person start scaring the other tribe members to the point where they’ll keep him around only because they’re scared he will decapitate each and every one of them if he gets voted off.

I give Survivor a solid 4 out of 5 rating, acknowledging that some seasons are better than others.

Julie’s Take: I wasn’t able to get Julie’s opinions before she shuffled off to work this morning, but I know she’s a loyal Survivor watcher, and I have to think she’s going to get extra emotionally invested this season when loved ones are scheming against each other and screwing one another over. She’d probably give Survivor a 3.5 or 4 out of 5.

Key & Peele

When & Where: 10:30pm on Comedy Central

What: A sketch comedy show in the same vein as Chappelle Show. It consists of pre-taped sketches that are introduced by the show’s stars in front of a live audience.

Who: Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are the show’s creators, writers and stars. They were both former cast members on MADtv.

Ross’s Take: It’s a slightly tamer version of Chappelle Show. That’s the simplest explanation. I haven’t seen every episode of the first two seasons, but the ones I’ve seen have been extremely entertaining. There’s a lot of humor about race and stereotypes, but they’re just as likely to spend time breaking down the mechanics of a high five or doing a parody of a flash mob. It’s one of those shows that you have to watch at least once to see if their humor does it for you.

I give it a 3.5 out of 5. It’s one of those shows I’ll tape, not watch for a while, and then plow through four or five episodes in one sitting.

Julie’s Take: She’s tried to watch it with me before and hasn’t enjoyed it nearly as much as I do. I’m guessing she’d give it a 2 out of 5.

To reiterate, no preview on Thursday. Go ahead and enjoy Kansas City at Philadelphia on the NFL Network. I’ll be back on Friday with another short preview of the weekend in TV.

Fall TV Preview: New & Returning Shows Starting Tonight

Unless you’re one of the five people who enjoys watching Ryan Seacrest host the most arbitrary quiz show of all time, you’re probably ready for some decent TV back in your life.

As an industry insider living in Los Angeles, I hear all the talk about how the networks are now motivated to provide better programming during the summer months. But, no, summer TV still blows.

If you’re smart, you use the summer to get away from the television entirely. But not me. Being lazy is my life. So I’m stuck watching shows during the June-August months that would never stand a chance of making my exclusive DVR queue during prime TV-viewing season…The Newsroom, American Ninja Warrior, Under the Dome and MasterChef to name a few.

But here we are, September, when hope springs eternal for TV. Our favorite shows are returning along with plenty of new ones to try out.

The one problem with the start of TV season? How do you dig through the endless junk that the networks and cable channels throw at us to find those handful of shows that might turn into this decade’s The Office, 30 Rock or Breaking Bad? There’s almost too much to choose from.

That’s where I come in. I know what works in TV, and I know what you should be watching (picture me saying that in the most humble way possible).

Over the next couple weeks, I’ll be posting blogs almost every day to give my recommendations on which shows to add to your DVR and which shows to add to your “Never Record List” (if that sort of thing existed, How I Met Your Mother would be at the top of it).

But since my point of view is limited to “30-year-old, college-educated, genius male,” I’ve recruited an assistant to review these shows with me. Her point of view is “30-year-old, Masters degree, female, who is way too easily entertained.” Throughout these blogs, she’ll simply be known as Julie.

I’ll also be embedding trailers to each TV show we’re reviewing whenever possible so you can easily decide for yourself if you don’t want to blindly follow our opinions.

When I asked a friend the other day what new shows he was planning on watching, he said he hates wasting his time getting into shows that ultimately get cancelled. So his plan is to not watch any new shows, see which ones get picked up for a second season later this year or early next year, and then catch up on season one.

This is a guy who wants life to be so efficient he wouldn’t dare waste a minute of his time on something that might not pan out down the road. He’s essentially a robot due to his “all logic, no emotion” philosophy.

But to some extent, I agree with him. It sucks getting into a new show and then finding out four weeks later it’s going to be cancelled by the end of the season. But I’m more of a cyborg than a robot. Sign me up to avoid almost all one-hour dramas until I find out it’s worth investing my time, but I can’t do that with the 30-minute sitcoms. I love laughing too much.

So for this series of blogs, you can expect lots of comedy reviews and almost no drama reviews. Got it?

Without further ado, here’s what’s on the schedule for Tuesday, September 17th:

Returning Shows

 

The Mindy Project

When & Where: 9:30pm on FOX

What: Workplace comedy that revolves around an OB/GYN who desperately wants her life to be right out of a classic romantic comedy/chick flick movie.

Who: Mindy Kaling of The Office fame is the creator and star. But the supporting cast and guest stars have as much to do with the hilarity of the show as Kaling does.

Ross’s Take: Don’t be scared off by the mention of a romcom/chick flick above. Much of the humor comes from the fact that Mindy takes great pains to make her life equivalent to the perfect Meg Ryan type of life from those 90s movies, but reality never works out quite as perfectly. The show splits time between Mindy’s professional life (her power struggle with the other doctors, her ongoing battle with a group of midwives that occupy the floor above her office) and her personal life (trying to have a one-night stand, embarrassing herself at weddings, trying to be a competent babysitter). In my opinion the supporting characters at her office are the best part of this show. Especially male nurse Morgan, played to perfection by Ike Barinholtz. If you watch Parks & Recreation, picture Andy Dwyer with a slightly more sinister past and a little more in the brain department.

I give The Mindy Project a 3.5 out of 5 on my arbitrary ratings scale, with a chance to move up to 4 during Season 2.

Julie’s Take: Mindy is the funniest person ever, and she has short hair this season! I give it a 6 out of 5 on Ross’s arbitrary ratings scale.

New Girl

When & Where: 9:00pm on FOX

What: A sitcom about four friends—three men, one woman—living together in LA, whose lives and romances sometimes overlap.

Who: Zooey Deschanel is the “girl” in the title. In the pilot episode two seasons ago, she broke up with her boyfriend and moved into an apartment with three guys.

Ross’s Take: It’s occasionally funny and has a pretty low priority on my TV-viewing schedule. Out of the four main characters, there’s one who’s constantly funny (Schmidt, the overconfident metrosexual who offends everyone with his cockiness), two who are sometimes funny (Jess, the dorky school teacher, and Nick the serial slacker), and one who is completely invisible on the show (Winston, a former basketball player and current radio show host who NEVER gets to say or do anything funny or relevant…seriously, no one knows why he’s even on the show at this point).

Through the first two seasons there was a “Jim & Pam from The Office” type of will they or won’t they relationship between Jess and Nick. But at the end of last season they started hooking up and that’s the big dramatic issue they’ll try to work out this season.

I give New Girl a 2 out of 5, and if enough new shows entertain me this Fall, this one will be the first to drop out of my DVR recording list.

Julie’s Take: I’m so sick of all the characters except for Schmidt. I’m excited about watching it, but it’s starting to go down the How I Met Your Mother path for me (meaning no longer funny but I have to watch it). I give it a 2.5 out of 5…3 if you push me.

New Shows

 

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

When & Where: 8:30pm on FOX

What: A workplace sitcom about an NYPD detective who plays the roll of class clown until he gets a new boss who wants everyone to operate “by the book.”

Who: Andy Samberg of Saturday Night Live/Dick In A Box fame plays the main character Jake Peralta.

Ross’s Take: It has potential as long as it doesn’t go too far down the slapsticky/watch Andy Samberg do little kid things road. If they have him doing things that I’d associate with a bad Adam Sandler movie, I’m out. The trailer makes me think we’re getting a lot of small roles and cameos from some pretty entertaining actors (Joe Lo Truglio and Fred Armisen are in the trailer) so I’m pinning my hopes to that.

I’ll give this a 3 out of 5 based on almost no information but the trailer.

Julie’s Take: It could be too slapsticky with Andy Samberg doing ridiculous stuff that annoys me, but I’m giving it a 5 out of 5 for now.

Dads

When & Where: 8:00pm on FOX

What: A buddy sitcom about two video game developers whose lives are turned upside down when their offensive/humiliating dads unexpectedly move in with them.

Who: Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi are the sons, Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy) and Seth Green helped create it.

Ross’s Take: As an ordinary person, I’m passing on this show. But as a decorated TV critic and future TV writer, I’m going to watch a couple episodes just to see how bad it is. It looks bad. And I couldn’t help but seem some reviews from people who have gotten to watch a couple episodes ahead of time. They didn’t have anything good to say. It’s one of those shows with a laugh track where they go for the big laugh by having one of the dads walk around in a towel with his man boobs exposed. Or by the guys making the office assistant dress up like a Chinese school girl in a short skirt to impress some clients even though she’s adamantly against it. If that sounds funny to you, go for it.

I’m giving it a 0.5 out 5 with the strong possibility that I’m overrating it.

Julie’s Take: It looks hilarious. I’m giving it a high 4 out of 5.

Go ahead and get your DVRs ready because the shows (and my reviews) are going to be blasting you in the face nonstop for the next few weeks.