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.
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Back to School: My First Relevant Learning Experience Since Diagramming Sentences 20 Years Ago

Have you ever seen someone so ready to rock their UCLA Extension writing class? Me neither. So what if the class was from 7-10pm…nothing was going to stop me from bringing my brown bagged lunch on day one (If you’re curious, the bag contained m&m’s, grapes and a lollipop. If only I would have stopped at Starbuck’s on my way to class to grab a hot chocolate, then my classmates would have really known they were dealing with a mature adult).

Since it was my first time in a classroom in more than seven years, I decided to actually pay attention and observe my surroundings. Here’s what I learned in week one:

-It was a strange sensation to sit in a three-hour class and not have my mind wandering to every topic besides what was being taught. Out of 32 undergrad classes at BU, I can’t recall more than four or five where I was actually paying attention to the content being discussed. That gives me hope that I’m finally enrolled in the right class.

-When I was last in school, Smartphones didn’t exist. Waiting for class to begin back in the old days of 2005, your only option for entertainment was to actually talk to people. Scary stuff. I feel bad for teachers mostly because it’s gotta be nearly impossible to hold 20 students’ attention for even an hour when every one of them has their iphone right next to their notebooks. Or it could be even worse, like the girl next to me who was using her laptop to “take notes,” but really was just doing silent video conferencing with her husband the whole time.

-But I did discover one huge benefit to having an iphone in this setting. Halfway through class, the teacher asked us to go around the room and introduce ourselves, including where we were from, what writing experience we have, what our favorite TV shows are, and why we decided to take the class. Of course you all know that in a group of 20, there’s going to be a couple people who decide to hijack the conversation, stretching their time to speak from two minutes to 10 minutes, deciding instead of answering the teacher’s questions to focus on their whole life story (if you don’t think you’ve been in a group of people where someone is doing this—whether it be school or work—then I’m happy to tell you that you are that person, and you should shut the fuck up sometimes). Anyway, to show these people that I was just about done with their story, I combined a shameless “whip out my iphone and pretend to be playing games” move with a loud throat clear, ensuring even the dumbest person understood the social cue.

-After hearing all these boring stories from my classmates, I was a little shocked to learn I was the only one who purposely quit his job, became unemployed and expected to make it as a writer before money runs out. Most people in the class think they’re going to have to work hard for years just to get noticed in the entertainment industry. Boy, are they clueless…

-The three-hour night class felt a little strange in that I was sober and it was a real class. The only night class I ever had at BU was called “Sports Management” where the most difficult task over an entire semester was creating a practice schedule for the fictitious sports team I was pretending to manage. And we usually went to the BU Pub and pounded beers before class. Now I show up sober with grapes and a canteen of water. So sad.

-The teacher totally validated himself in week one by showing us a New Girl episode at the end of class and then promptly tearing it to pieces. That’s how you get on my good side, which I’m sure was his goal all along.

-I hate to predict failure for any of my classmates, but I wonder if the woman who doesn’t own a TV, hasn’t watched a TV show in over 10 years, and claims not to have any time to practice writing is going to do well in a Television Writing course?

-If karma has a sense of humor, my teacher will pair me up with that woman for some kind of important project.

-Oh, and just for a comparison so everyone knows I haven’t changed a bit since the last picture of me going to school was taken, here you go:

God. Damn. I want that square knit tie back.

Reviewing Three New TV Shows: The Bitch in Apt 23, Girls, Veep

Apparently female-led TV shows are all the rage these days.  When the new TV schedule launched last fall, people were praising all the shows that suddenly focused on women.  There are three shows in particular that women seem to have gravitated towards, but the only problem is that they are all differing levels of horrible.  There’s Whitney (Colossal Disaster), 2 Broke Girls (Regular-sized Disaster), and New Girl (Whatever one step below a disaster is).

I know what you’re thinking…how do I know so much about these “TV shows for women,” right?  Well, on my most unlucky nights, I’m sometimes forced to watch TV with women.  Unfortunately they don’t pick to watch the same NHL Network highlights over and over.  They pick the three shows mentioned above.  Whitney is so horrible that on one episode, you could actually hear boo’s coming from the automated laugh track.  2 Broke Girls is possibly the least funny sitcom anyone’s ever created.  And the only redeeming quality of New Girl is the hotness of its lead actress, Zooey Deschanel.  But even that isn’t enough to give the show any staying power in my mind.

I take most of my cues on what new shows to watch from Entertainment Weekly.  The magazine reminds you of every new show coming out on a weekly basis, and they make solid recommendations most of the time.  But I was naturally a little skeptical when I saw three more female-led shows hitting the TV within a couple weeks of each other.  EW gave all three solid reviews so I thought I’d try them all out and report back on my experience.

Here are my reviews and rankings of the three new shows in question:

3. Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 (Three episodes aired, Wednesdays at 9:30pm on ABC)

Terrible name.  Terrible show.

This sitcom is about June, a 26-year-old woman whose job as a mortgage broker transfers her from Indiana to New York.  The opening episode jams the theme of “naive midwesterner in a big, scary city” down our throats.  June’s life plan is to be married with a steady job by 26, have two kids by 30, blah blah blah…  All of that goes to shit when her office and apartment are seized by the feds because her boss is accused of embezzling money.  From there her life spirals out of control when she catches her fiance cheating on her with her new roommate, Chloe.

Chloe is the “bitch” from the title.  She’s apparently a con artist that does whatever necessary to drive her roommates crazy (walk around naked, have loud parties on a Tuesday night, go to the bathroom while her roommate is in the bath tub).  These roommates inevitably get fed up and leave, and Chloe gets to keep their rent money and security deposit.

This premise seems halfway decent if the show was centered around Chloe and a revolving door of roommates, but instead it seems like June is the center of this show.  That’s unfortunate because it means we’re in for 10 more episodes of her bouncing back and forth between, “I’m 26 and my life plan isn’t on track anymore, poor me,” and, “You’re right, why do I care about my life plan so much?  Let’s be spontaneous.”

After watching all three episodes, I can confidently tell you not to bother with it.  The plots are horrible and all over the place; the characters haven’t been developed very well; the funny parts that are supposed to be centered around the outrageous Chloe and her antics fall more than flat (as an example, in episode 2, the “humor” was centered around Chloe calling her dad “Scott” and treating him like a friend instead of a dad).  And somehow, these two women who were ready to rip each other’s throats out in episode one are suddenly chummy and happy to coexist in episodes two and three.  It’s also beyond unbelievable that June would stay in this apartment with the stuff Chloe puts her through.

Best minor character: James Van Der Beek…played by James Van Der Beek.  I’d watch a show based purely on this guy looking for acting jobs, but unfortunately Don’t Trust the B only gives us three minutes of him per episode.

Status on my DVR: Cancelled effective immediately

2. Girls (Three episodes aired, Sundays at 10:30pm on HBO)

Go ahead.  Laugh at me for thinking I might enjoy a show titled “Girls.”  But I like HBO original programming, and I usually give most of their new shows a try.  I understood the premise to be, “young adult trying to find her niche in life struggles to get by in a recession-era New York City.”  I thought it would be a show that all young adults could relate to as they try to find their place in the world.  I was hoping for universal themes and plots.  Unfortunately, after three episodes, it seems like this is a show for women only.  Here are some of the main topics and issues the characters have dealt with so far:

-Unwanted pregnancy and the subsequent abortion

-Getting your period when you think you’re pregnant

-Getting tested for STD’s because the guy who you have sex with regularly may or may not always use a condom, and may or may not be sleeping with other women

-Being a virgin at the age of 20-something

And for the most part, these things weren’t dealt with in a humorous way.  I could maybe get on board with that.  It’s a particularly heavy show, and while it’s extremely well done, I just don’t think it’s for me (call me immature, but I really do need some laughs with my daily dose of abortion, periods, and STDs).  The reason I haven’t ditched the show entirely is because I’m amazed by Lena Dunham (not in a “she’s hot” kind of way like Zooey).  She plays the lead character, Hannah, but also is the creator/executive producer of the show, and she writes and directs the episodes too.  That’s pretty friggen amazing for a 25-year-old.

Best line so far: “There is seriously nothing flakier in this world than not showing up to your own abortion.”  See, now that’s abortion with a humorous twist!  If only more of the show could be that funny.

Status on my DVR: Not cancelled yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

1). Veep (Two episodes aired, Sundays at 10pm on HBO)

Brilliant.  The idea to create a show focused on the Vice President of the United States isn’t brilliant itself.  But the combination of the genre (comedy), the tone (hapless satire with just the right amount of subtlety) and the lead actress (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) make it extremely promising.

You could almost describe Veep as “Parks and Recreation in the White House.”  It has the politician who means well but tends to put her foot in her mouth far too often. And it has her surrounding staff of misfits who can simultaneously get her out of a jam while creating a whole new problem.  If you like Parks and Rec, The Office or Arrested Development, give this show a chance and I promise you won’t regret it.

Best Minor Character: Speaking of Arrested Development, Tony Hale, who plays Buster on that show, is cast as Gary, the VP’s body man.  I have no idea what a body man really does, but it apparently includes taking a “sneeze bullet” for the VP.  And while we’re talking about the minor characters, I have a feeling that if you watch Veep, you’ll enjoy the VP’s staff more than the VP herself.  They are all amazing in their own way.

Best line so far: “Did the President call? No?”  It’s a running question from the VP to her receptionist, and you have to watch to appreciate it.

Status on my DVR: Taping all episodes, on the rise as one of my favorite comedies.