Monday, July 26, 2010

2010 Emmys: Comedy Part 2

    The Emmy nominations for this year are out. This is television's biggest awards show, and as a television reviewer, I couldn't help but be excited. Sure, there were some snubs, but there were also some pleasant surprises. With lots of time left until the statues are handed out on August 29th, there is plenty of time to examine who's up for what. In this fourth in a series of articles, I'll look at the the supporting player categories for Comedies.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series: Chris Colfer, Glee (Fox), Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother (CBS), Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family (ABC), Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family, (ABC), Ty Burrell, Modern Family (ABC), Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men (CBS).  So tough.  I have been lobbying for NPH for years, but now that Jeremy Piven has finally dropped off the list, and HIMYM had such a lackluster year, I just can't bring myself to support him for the award this time.  Cryer is a joke (just like his series), and should not be on this list.  People either love or hate the show, and I firmly fall into the second category.  Instead, Ed O'Neill, the one Modern Family adult that did not get a nomination, should be on here.  Of the MF guys, Stonestreet is my first instinct, but as soon as I consider Burrell's work, I go into deadlock.  I think the former has a better chance of winning, but the latter is just as deserving.  As is Ferguson, don't get me wrong.  What's working against his character is that he seems so toned down compared to the others.  I am a big fan of Colfer.  He's my favorite member of the Glee club, and I'm thrilled to see him get the nod.  But up against comedy veterans, this looks like a MF win.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series: Jane Lynch, Glee (Fox), Julie Bowen, Modern Family (CBS), Sofia Vergara, Modern Family (CBS), Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live (NBC), Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock (NBC), Holland Taylor, Two and a Half Men (CBS). Jane Lynch, hands down.  The comedy goddess has been overlooked for many an award, but as Sue Sylvester, she is a powerhouse that cannot be stopped, nor should she be.  If the award is stolen from her (and if she doesn't win, it will be a crime), it will go to one of the Modern Family ladies, both equally deserving, and had Lynch not been on television this year, they would stand a real chance.  Wiig is carrying SNL by herself these days, but it's leading to a little bit of overexposure, which coupled with bad writing, will probably sink her ship.  It's nice to see Krakowski get a nod.  I often view her as pushed out of the spotlight by the many other hams she works with, but in retrospect, she does hold her own.  I like the actress Holland Taylor, but why she would even consent to being on such a show, I do not know, and cannot in good conscience write anything even suggesting that Two and a Half Men might deserve the slightest praise.

     The 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards will air live Sunday, August 29th at 8pm on NBC.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

My Boys have grown up a bit

    TBS's hit sitcom My Boys returns tonight with two new episodes: "Addition by Subtraction" and "Gourmets and Confused".  Sadly, the first episode deal's with the group coping over the loss of Andy (Jim Gaffigan), who has moved his family to China.  Gaffigan is sorely missed from the cast, and it is quickly apparent that no one can replace him.  I gave the show props for realizing that, and not trying to pick another goofy comedian to fill his shoes.  The 2nd episode finds the two couples in the cast at a fancy restaurant, while the two single guys decide to try to have the best night ever without the rest of their friends.  Of course, there are some mix-ups and accidents, and soon hilarity ensues.

     Without Gaffigan, there is less slapstick.  The humor has had to tone itself down.  Kenny (Michael Bunin) and Stephanie (Kellee Stewart) now in a relationship that is publicly visible, and Bobby (Kyle Howard) and P.J. (Jordana Spiro) have settled into their couple status, comfortable after some time together.  The show used to be about a bunch of single friends and their antics, but gradually over three seasons, they've all grown up.  Even Brendan (Reid Scott) and Mike (Jamie Kaler), the two least responsible, and still single, dressed in suits to go find classy girls in tonight's episodes.  It's become a different show than it used to be, but I'm not sure that's a bad thing.

     Although no final decision has been announced, it is likely that My Boys's fourth season will be it's last.  That makes me sad, but unlike other sitcoms, the actual serious development of the characters should leave the ending bittersweet.  We have bore witness to a journey, with a definite beginning (and hopefully definite) ending.  Stephanie has gone from outsider and occasional gal pal to P.J. to full fledged member of the group, as well as overcome her hate of men in general, and Kenny in particular.  Brenden will soon be looking for his own apartment, while Mike considers steady work and love.  If we can get some Jim Gaffigan again at the end of the season, I will be fully satisfied.

     If you haven't seen the show, go ahead and tune in.  The first two episodes should bring you up to speed.  If you have, enjoy the series while you still can, because you may not get to much longer.  My Boys airs on TBS Sunday nights at 10pm, but tonight you get a second new episode at 10:30.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Kathy Griffin's Life on the See-List

       Six seasons in, with a couple of Emmys under her belt to show for it, can Kathy Griffin really still claim she's a D-List celebrity?  Isn't she at least B or C list by now?  Sure, she does crass, embarrassing things to help her keep that status, but I don't think she shocks anyone any longer with anything that she does.  I think it's time for an upgrade, and perhaps even a title change for her popular series.

     We're already six episodes into Season Six, and Kathy has had quite a bit of entertaining adventure already.  And not only that, she's been pretty serious.  In last night's episode, she publicly had a pap smear poolside at a hotel to raise awareness for women's health.  Last week, we saw her hold a rally in Washington D.C. to support the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in our military.  Admittedly, she got her vagina waxed and vajazzled before the pap smear.  She also called the Majority Whip a Queen.  She's still Kathy, and Kathy has to be zany.  However, these were important topics that she devoted real effort to working on.  While many of the things she does are just publicity stunts, those two were meant to accomplish something more than just get her in papers.  And I'm sure they did, though it's hard to measure on woman's efforts in a widespread, slowly occurring change.  I definitely give her an A for effort.

     Now lest you think Kathy has become a tireless crusader, she has also managed plenty of ridiculous acts this season.  In one episode she judged, and then participated in, a young child beauty pageant.  She went to Wasilla, Alaska to hang out with Levi Johnston and leave a note on Sarah Palin's door.  She held a yard sale of her own, as well as her mother's, stuff.  She created merchandise to promote her mother.  Speaking of her mom, Kathy has brought new levels of humiliation on poor Maggie.  Maggie refused to attend the pap smear, for one.

     Plenty of bigger name stars have also made appearances, including Liza Minnelli and Joy Behar.  If you'd like to see more of Kathy, tune in to her show on Bravo Tuesday nights at 10pm.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Covert Affairs a different direction for USA

     USA's latest drama, which premiered last Tuesday, and continues tonight, is Covert Affairs.  It stars Piper Perabo (Cheaper By the Dozen, Coyote Ugly) as Annie Walker, a new CIA trainee that got to skip her last month at The Farm and get directly to work in the D.C. area.  Annie is wanted for more than her skills, although she doesn't seem to know it yet.  Two years ago she had a passionate three-week affair with Ben Mercer (Eion Bailey, Band of Brothers), whom her bosses want to track down, and who resurfaced to save her life near the end of the pilot.  What he is up to, or why the CIA is interested in him, seems to be a mystery that will string out for awhile.  It's a series that doesn't feel very-USA like, driven by plot as much as by characters, while their usual series mostly just rely on the latter.  That is not a complaint.  It's nice to see something fresh from the network.

     The pilot was pretty good, though there was a lot going on.  It's kind of like a not-quite-as-good remake of Alias, with a star that resembles that of Alias, but without the wonderful villains.  Believability isn't too bad, which is often a problem for shows like this.  Annie's family wasn't too involved or too annoying, another element that sets it apart from other USA dramas, that often bring family members front and center to the story.  Annie's sister, Danielle (Anne Dudek, House, Big Love, Mad Men) is a starring player, but her role in the pilot was limited to trying to send Annie up on a date.

     The cast is brimming with other television veterans, as well.  Christopher Gorham (Ugly Betty) is Auggie, an intelligence officer blinded in Iraq, but already well adjusted to his loss of vision.  He will make a fantastic best friend, and I would hope that eventually he might rank as a love interest.  He is much less geeky than he was in Betty, despite his job, and already seemed a good fit for Annie.  Annie's obvious suitor, Conrad (Eric Lively, 24: Redemption, The L Word), has not been slated to continue in the series, and will soon be replaced by Jai (Sendhil Ramamurthy, Heroes).  Lastly, Annie's bosses, husband and wife Joan (Kari Matchett, 24, ER, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) and Arthur Campbell (Peter Gallagher, Californication, The OC), seem to be as concerned with martial problems as they are bringing in Ben.  I couldn't tell from the pilot how they ranked in relation to each other, but Joan seems to be Annie's direct superior in her little group, while Arthur heads a department including Annie's workgroup.

     All in all, it's not a bad attempt, though not a great one, either.  It has plenty of potential, so we'll see how USA develops it before I decide if it's a show to invest in or not.  But as the network did dare to take a chance, they have me for now.  Covert Affairs airs Tuesdays at 10pm on USA.

Monday, July 19, 2010

White Collar returns for summer heists

     Last week, USA's White Collar returned for a second season.  Considering it premiered last fall, then aired again this winter, it's gotten more episodes in the last twelve months than most USA shows.  But I'm not complaining.  The series about the partnership of an F.B.I. agent and a con-man with an electric ankle bracelet is good escapism, and the first episode back was no exception.  Called "Withdrawal", the team tried to stop a cocky bank robber who sent his business cards ahead to the banks he was thinking about robbing.  It provided plenty of action, a bit of a humor, and a few plot twists.  Plus, the villain was played by the wonderful Tim Matheson, who also directed the episode.

     But that's not what the series is really about, and the case of the week is not what sets White Collar aside from some of the other dramas on television.  No, the heart and ongoing plot is what makes the show special and worth watching.  The con-man, Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) is still stinging from the apparent death of his love two months ago when her jet blew up right in front of him.  The agent, Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) is meeting secretly with Neal's criminal friend Mozzie (Willie Garson) to make sure that Neal isn't going to snap.  Not only that, but Peter is in very hot water after the jet's explosion, and the other mishaps that went along with it, and Neal doesn't realize just how precarious and scrutinized their continued agreement is right now.  Which makes it all the more cringe-inducing when Neal uses less than proper means to get the information needed to catch the bad guys.

     Mystery was further deepened when it was revealed that Agent Diana Lancing (Marsha Thomason) stole the music box that the whole finale centered on.  What is she doing with it?  Is she keeping it hidden from bad elements, or intending to use it for herself?  Does the Bureau or Peter know that she has it?  And soon (presumably next week) Peter is going after shifty Fowler (Noah Emmerich), who seems to have disappeared.  I don't like or trust Fowler, and I understand why Peter has kept Neal out of the loop on that investigation aspect, but there's still so much unknown going on there as well.  Plenty to keep checking back with the show on as the summer plays out.

     White Collar airs on USA Tuesday nights at 9pm, including tomorrow.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hung up on Hung

     HBO's Hung is about a single father slash high school basketball coach who goes into prostitution to pay for the rebuilding of his house after it pretty much burns down.  Ray (Thomas Jane) is an interesting character, balancing family life, romance, and being a male whore.  He fell in love with a client last season, and clearly pines for his ex-wife, Jessica (Anne Heche, Men in Trees), who isn't exactly happy with her second husband, Ronnie (Eddie Jemison, Ocean's 11, 12, and 13).  This almost came to a head last season as Jessica sat waiting for a male hooker in a hotel room, but Ray, realizing who he was going to meet, couldn't bring himself to go through with it.  It's frustrating, because Ray and Jessica have great chemistry, and they belong together, now that Jessica is developing into a full grown human.  They just had a case of bad timing the first time around.

     Their kids, twins Darby (Sianoa Smit-McPhee, UK's As the Bell Rings) and Damon (Charlie Saxton), are far less than well adjusted, and wish Ray would finish his construction so they could go back to living with him, which hurts Jessica quite a bit, as she's genuinely trying.  They are both interesting, though rarely get much plot.  Darby's campaign last week to make fat acceptable was nice, and Jessica's attempt to support her, though awkward and a complete failure, was sweet.  My biggest question about the kids, though, is how did two such beautiful parents make two completely average, normal looking children?  I would have never suspected Damon and Darby's biological lineage had it not been spelled out explicitly.  In fact, I'm still waiting for the plot twist to explain it.  I'm not trying to be mean; I like them both.  They just don't match.

     Tonight will be the third episode of the second season.  This year, Ray is being fought over by two pimps.  His first, Tanya (Jane Adams, Frasier), doesn't quite know how to build the business, but is trying her hardest.  Lenore (Rebecca Creskoff) is already a lifestyles coach for wealthy broads, and is just trying to add Ray to her list of offered services.  Lenore is winning on the income, but Tanya is determined to prove herself, so it's still anybody's game.

     Hung doesn't get the attention, praise, and award nominations that many HBO shows get and have gotten, but it is very good.  It's a unique story, told in a compelling way.  I don't really see where it's going to go long term, but twelve episodes in, I'm very pleased.  I think it just needs to find its audience, and with HBO waiting two weeks after the season premiere to air the second episode, that may be difficult.

     Hung airs Sunday nights at 10pm.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

What is Childrens Hospital?

     What is Childrens Hospital?  The title of the first episode, which aired last Sunday on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, is "Hospital Isn't a Place".  Wikipedia tells me that it is named after Dr. Childrens.  It also says that it is a web series for created by Rob Corddry (The Daily Show).  Rob not only gets writing and directing credit, but also is one of the stars, playing a doctor who always wears clown makeup.  Disturbing, yes.  Funny, doubly yes.

     Although this started as a web series (apparently in 2008, from the dialogue), two episodes will air each week for the next month or so.  Each episode is about 5 minutes.  The two this week were divide by a faux commercial for a crime show called "NTSF:SD:SUV", or "National Terrorism Strike Force: San Diego: Sport Utility Vehicle."  It advertised a 12 hour season finale special event, so I'm thinking that it isn't real.  Like Childrens Hospital, it mocks a popular television genre.  After all of the webisodes have aired, new episodes will begin running on August 22nd.

     CH spoofs popular medical dramas.  It's biggest source seems to be Grey's Anatomy, as the narration, personal drama, and sex seem to best match that show.  It also pulls from ER and M*A*S*H.  The best M*A*S*H reference was a voice on the hospital loudspeaker asking Captain Pierce to report to Colonel Blake's office, two characters from the old sitcom.  Also, the character who does the announcements is named Sal Viscuso, an actor who frequently did the announcements on the show it copies.  The voice is performed by Michael Cera (Juno, Arrested Development), a big name talent who isn't even seen on screen.

     Cera isn't the only well known personality to populate the medical comedy.  The series stars Lake Bell (How to Make It in America, Boston Legal), Erinn Hayes (Parenthood, Worst Week), Rob Huebel (Human Giant), Ken Marino (Veronica Mars, Party Down), and Megan Mullally (Party Down, Will & Grace).  Some of them have funny names, such as Bell's Cat Black, some have funny mannerisms, such as the Chief's crippling ailment, that seems to be not only undefined, but change throughout the episode.  The first two episodes boasted guest stars the like of Nate Corddry (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, United States of Tara), Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation), and Ed Helms as Dr. Ed Helms (The Office).  Bell will be reduced to recurring status when the season two episodes kick in August 22nd, but the cast will add Malin Akerman (Watchmen) and Henry Winkler (Happy Days, Arrested Development).

     So, what is Childrens Hospital?  Sadly, I cannot tell you that, or even what it's about, and that makes it hard to review.  I'll let all of those names up there stand for the show, and if that doesn't encourage you to watch it, I don't know what will.  That much talent doesn't come together for crap.  I can tell you, the first episodes were hilarious!  Childrens Hospital airs Sunday nights 10:30 on Cartoon Network.

Friday, July 16, 2010

2010 Emmys: Comedy

    Last week, the Emmy nominations for this year were released. This is television's biggest awards show, and as a television reviewer, I couldn't help but be excited. Sure, there were some snubs, but there were also some pleasant surprises. With 51 days left until the statues are handed out on August 29th, there is plenty of time to examine who's up for what. In this third in a series of articles, I'll look at the major categories for Comedies.

Outstanding Comedy Series: Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO), Glee (Fox), Modern Family (ABC), Nurse Jackie (Showtime), The Office (NBC), 30 Rock (NBC).  I hate to be a hater, because I love NBC's Thursdays, but Cougar Town deserves to make this list more than the last two.  I would even argue that Chuck should be here.  But of the nominees listed, all are excellent show.  Most people believe that there are only two that have a real chance of winning, though: Glee and Modern Family.  One is a charming, fresh, and original dramedy (with musical numbers!), while the other has perfected the art of sitcom.  Some would argue they belong in two separate categories, and I certainly see their point.  Glee blurs the line with what we would consider a comedy, however, I still think it will probably win.  It's just been too big a phenomenon not to.  Family should still take other awards, making both camps reasonably happy.  Props to CYE for being a nominee, though.  The Seinfeld reunion was a high point of the series.  And I adore Nurse Jackie, but wonder why it isn't considered a drama.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series: Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory (CBS), Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO), Matthew Morrison, Glee (Fox), Tony Shalhoub, Monk (USA), Steve Carell, The Office (NBC), Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock (NBC).  This may be Parsons's year... if Morrison doesn't swipe it out from under him.  I think Parsons does the comedy game better, and so I am rooting for him, but I also think Glee's popularity may give Morrison a boost.  Baldwin is still funny, but I think it's time for someone else to have a turn.  Similarly, Shalhoub was wonderful in the role, but I hope nostalgia for his final season doesn't put him above more deserving competitors.  Poor Carell should have won at some point, but not this year.  And while I'm gratified to see David make the list, as I frequently laugh out loud at CYE, he's essentially playing himself.  I don't know that that deserves an award more than Parsons or Morrison.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series: Lea Michele, Glee (Fox), Julia Louis-Dreyfus, The New Adventures of Old Christine (CBS), Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie (Showtime), Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation (NBC), Tina Fey, 30 Rock (NBC), Toni Collette, United States of Tara (Showtime).  Tough category.  My instinct is Michele will take it, but I could see Falco, too.  Again, not sure why she's in the comedy category.  Did Showtime just think the competition would be less fierce?  'Cause it's not.  I'd like to see Julia get it, because it is completely unfair that CBS canceled her show, and perhaps it would garner more interest and a late save from another network if she did, though I think that unlikely.  On a like vain, NBC is holding Parks and Rec until mid-season, so perhaps Poehler's win would give it a needed boost.  It certainly deserves to have higher ratings.

     The 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards will air live Sunday, August 29th at 8pm on NBC.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Comics, comics everywhere

     Summer is a time for comedy.  NBC has (once again) revived it's competition show, Last Comic Standing.  I am sorry to say, it's been a little weak this year, though.  Craig Robinson is doing pretty good as host, but not everyone else is really bringing the laughs.  The judges gave no useful critiques in the early rounds.  They were badly in need of someone to tell it like it is.  They all pretty much only said nice things.  And then they picked a pretty weak Top Ten, as evidenced by this week's episode.  I disagreed with many of their choices for the group, and I thought they let some very talented people slip away.  The most glaring mistake was bringing back Felipe Esparza.  And perhaps I don't understand the comedy stand-up hierarchy, but haven't Roy Wood Jr. and Tommy Johnagin already been fairly successful?  I was surprised to see them on the show, already being familiar names.  I have trouble wanting them to win because I feel like the show can better help out someone who has been less well know.

     This week, only Mike DeStefano killed.  Which is a shame, because I had also pinned my hopes on Laurie Kilmartin, Jonathan Thymius, and Myq Kaplan.  I twittered about how Myq had used the same material that was featured on Revision3's ROFL last week, and he e-mailed me back some fresh links.  That's how I know he has it in him to do better.  That, and I loved him in the early rounds.  Thymius started strong this week, and then kind of faded out.  I'm thinking it was just an off week all around.  Perhaps the performers were tired or nervous.  I would be in their position.  I'll still tune in next week and root for them.

     However, fear not.  Showtime has The Green Room With Paul Provenza, and the comics on there are all well seasoned.  Paul gets together with three or four comedians in a small space with an intimate audience and they talk for 25 minutes.  Last week, the guests included Robert Klein and Jonathan Winters, and was the funniest yet.  Winters's army story about pretending to be gay had me roaring, and then I laughed even harder, albeit in shock, when he revealed his mom's excuse for throwing away his old metal cars.  Klein had some great memories concerning Rodney Dangerfield.  This is a show you shouldn't miss.

     Tonight at 10:30pm, The Green Room welcomes Martin Mull, Penn Jillette, and the legendary Tommy Smothers.  Next Monday at 9pm, Last Comic Standing will be down to it's Top 7, and two more will be voted home,

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

2010 Emmys: Drama Part 2

     Last week, the Emmy nominations for this year were released.  This is television's biggest awards show, and as a television reviewer, I couldn't help but be excited.  Sure, there were some snubs, but there were also some pleasant surprises.  With 51 days left until the statues are handed out on August 29th, there is plenty of time to examine who's up for what.  In this second in a series of articles, I'll look at the the supporting player categories for Dramas.

 Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad (AMC), Martin Short, Damages (FX), Terry O'Quinn, Lost (ABC), Michael Emerson, Lost (ABC), John Slattery, Mad Men (AMC), Andre Braugher, Men of a Certain Age (TNT).  This is a very tough category.  I didn't initially like Mad Men, but am just now getting around to watching it, as I purchased the first three seasons on DVD some time ago, and I'm tired of them just collecting dust.  I'm still on season 1, so I don't know how Slattery did this year.  I watched all the episodes of the shows the other five nominees are in, though.  Braugher was good, though I was surprised to see him in the Supporting category instead of Lead.  And where are his co-stars?  O'Quinn and Emerson area always good, but neither match previous season appearances.  Not that it's a detriment to them, but their earlier work on Lost was so spine-tingling good, I just can't see them taking it for the final season.  Short was also incredibly enjoyable, and proved he can do serious drama just as well as he does comedy.  However, as tempted as I am to support Short this year, Aaron Paul was incredible.  Season 3 brought so many big moments for his character, from dealing with the death of his girlfriend, to struggling to stay sober, to almost getting killer, and then contemplating murder.  I have to say, Paul all the way.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Sharon Gless, Burn Notice (USA), Rose Byrne, Damages (FX), Archie Panjabi, The Good Wife (CBS), Christine Baranski, The Good Wife (CBS), Christina Hendricks, Mad Men (AMC), Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men (AMC).  I am ashamed to say that I only saw two of these fine women in their entirety.  As stated above, I'm way behind on Mad Men.  I missed the boat on The Good Wife, though in my defense, I already have the season one DVD pre-ordered, and I certainly won't continue to be delinquent any longer than necessary.  That being said, I always love Baranski, so maybe she should get.  Byrne did a fine job on Damages, but like some of the man above, she had a much better chance to stretch her talent prior to this season.  She was relatively balanced by this past year, so I wouldn't give it to her.  I am pleased to see Gless in this category, a completely unexpected turn.  When Burn Notice began, I really didn't care for her character.  But now she was forced her way into the group and proven her mettle, so I do enjoy her contribution.  I guess, still being unsure, as this is the rare category I don't feel prepared to judge because of all the Good Wife and Mad Men nominees, I am still putting my money (figuratively) on Baranski.

     The 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards will air live Sunday, August 29th at 8pm on NBC.

Warehouse 13: declassified again

    Last summer SyFy premiered Warehouse 13, a show about two Secret Service agents transferred to a mysterious building in South Dakota where their new duties include tracking down and bringing back artifacts with supernatural powers.  Sadly, I gave it only a couple of episodes to hook me, then left, thinking each week would be just a procedural.  Sure, there are elements of that, but the series got much better.  Having now caught up with last night's second episode of season two, "Mild Mannered", I can tell you, don't make the same mistake I did.  Tune in.

     Some of the missteps of season one are gone.  Dickenson (Simon Reynolds), who looked like he might be interesting, but was never really given the chance to be, is gone.  I can only guess that the path of the show must have been changed midway through the first season, because there was no reason for him to be in the theme song with his limited role.  Gladly, Claudia (Allison Scagliotti) has been upgraded to series regular, which she should have been in the first year.  Her introduction was when the show started to get good.  She's sort of like Chole from Smallville, in looks as well as purpose, but coming in with a huge chip on her shoulder.

     In last season's finale, Artie (Saul Rubinek, Frasier) seemed to be blown to bits, but thanks to the Phoenix pendant, he was saved.  The villain that did the deed, both the blowing up and the saving, was his old partner, James MacPherson (Roger Rees, Grey's Anatomy, The West Wing).  Although MacPherson died in the season premiere, he and Artie had a great conclusion in episode two.  Unfortunately, because Artie lives, a bodyguard (Jung-Yul Kim) died.  He will be missed.  These last two episodes have also given an expanded role to under-used Leena (Genelle Williams), who appears to be tied into some ongoing mystery connected to her being mind-controlled by MacPherson.  It should be interesting.

     This week, the two lead agents, Pete (Eddie McClintock) and Myka (Joanne Kelly), traveled to Detroit, where a real-live superhero was bashing criminals to clean up the town.  Two of the town's residents were played by Serenity sweethearts Jewel Staite and Sean Maher, once again playing love interests.  Jewel was more toned down that in the ill-fated series, but Sean played pretty much the same character.  It was very satisfying to see the two of them together again, and the super hero story was pretty exciting, too.

     I don't know what the rest of the season will bring, but Warehouse 13 seems to be on the right track.  Next week the town near the Warehouse seems to be coming apart at the seems!  Tune in on the SyFy channel Tuesday nights at 9pm.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Rizzoli & Isles pilot something special

     TNT is presenting something special tonight: the premiere of their new drama, Rizzoli & Isles.  The show, set in Boston, stars Angie Harmon (Law & Order) as homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and Sasha Alexander (NCIS, Dawson's Creek) as medical examiner Maura Isles, the title characters.  Both characters are drawn from the books of Tess Gerritsen, as this seems to be the summer of television based on the written word.  Rizzoli is tough and tomboyish, Isles is fashionable and worldly, but slightly creepy with her fascination for dead bodies.  Both women seem to be successful professionals who work well together, but are best friends.  TNT is going for the opposites-attract vibe (both women are straight) for a female buddy drama.

      In the pilot, "See One. Do One. Teach One.", Rizzoli is shocked to discover a copycat killer on the loose.  The shock is deep because the killer this newbie trained from is the same one that kidnapped, mutilated, and molested Rizzoli while she was investigating them.  Soon, her tormentor breaks out of prison and joins his apprentice.  Isles took a smaller role, as this episode was all about Rizzoli dealing with her feelings and trying to catch the bad guys.  Lest you think she's soft, wait until you see what happened when heroine and villains collide.  I won't spoil it, since it hasn't aired yet, but it's fantastic.

     One interesting character introduced in the pilot is Agent Dean (Billy Burke, the Twilight saga), whom both Rizzoli and Isles seem interested in, but he appears to favor the former.  However, her awkward social skills around boys make it difficult to gauge whether he registered her return of feelings or not.  For a brief scene, I thought he might be the apprentice, and it scared the crap out of me.  Thank goodness the show didn't go that way, and I hope that he will stick around.  Also starring is Bruce McGill (MacGyver, Animal House) as Rizzoli's former partner and Lee Thompson Young (The Famous Jett Jackson) as her squeamish new one.  Young was smart or lucky enough to get off of Flash Forward in the middle of it's first and only season to do this show.

     The cast is great, the chemistry was set.  The pilot was wonderful because of the personal drama and horror felt by Rizzoli, so I don't know that the show can sustain that.  It wouldn't make sense for her to be so intimately involved in every case.  However, Isles is played by a very talented actress, woefully underused in the first episode, so that element is still a bit in the dark.  It was certainly good enough that I will be tuning in again next week, without a doubt.

     Check out Rizzoli & Isles tonight on TNT at 10pm.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Haven a respite for bad television

    This past Friday SyFy premiered a new series called Haven.  Inspired by the Stephen King novel "The Colorado Kid", the book concerns two old reporters telling and investigating an old mystery with a new young woman.  The two reporters were represented in the series, but the woman is now an F.B.I. agent with a different name.  The pilot, "Welcome to Haven", did not concern itself with the Colorado Kid mystery, but dropped a few hints that it would be a season-long plot thread.  Instead, they focused on an escaped convict killed by a local woman, Marion (Nicole de Boer, Star Trek: Deep Space 9, The Dead Zone), who could control the weather, but didn't know it.

     Normally, any film concept based on a Stephen King story is decent, if not fantastic.  However, Haven stands out as an absolute dud.  I try not to judge shows based on pilots, but this one was so bad that I will, because I don't think I could stomach another episode.  I do not object to the cast.  On the contrary.  The main woman, Audrey, is played by Emily Rose (Brothers & Sisters).  Also starring is Eric Balfour (24) as Duke Crocker, an obnoxious man who owns a boat, reads newspapers from the Far East, and is a thorn in the side for local law enforcement.  Both are wonderful actors, given better material.  Unfortunately, Haven doesn't give them much to work with.

     Besides the corny, disjointed writing, and bad special effects, the who just doesn't set up a believable world.  de Boer was terrible as Marion, her crying as disingenuous as I've ever seen, and I loved her on DS9.  The special effects were cheap.  A thick fog quickly descends over the town, but cars and trucks keep speeding along, instead of immediately slamming their brakes?  The roads routinely collapse because they're built on something too soft?  Why would anyone ever drive or go out in this town?  Neither of those plot devices worked at all.  Don't even get me started on Nathan (Lucas Bryant), the police office who can't feel pain and has daddy issues.  He is a flat, pat character, and I cannot see me rooting for him as a partner and love interest for Audrey.

     I wish I could say I found some glimmer of hope that future episodes might be better, but I didn't.  Thirteen episodes have been ordered, but the pilot is the only one I plan on watching.  Haven airs Friday nights at 10pm on SyFy.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

My Emmy Picks

     This is my list of Emmy picks that I am doing on my own ballot, for fun.  The picks do not necessarily reflect who I think deserves it, but who I think will get it.  As per the rules I created for my own house, I am submitting first, second, and third choices for each category.  If you wish to play the same way at your home, each first place pick that you get right earns you three points, each second place win earns two points, and each third place choice wins one point.  Get it?  Good.  I have chosen to leave off categories that I don't know much about and / or care about.  Here are my choices:

Outstanding Drama Series:
1st Choice: The Good Wife
2nd Choice: Mad Men
3rd Choice: Dexter 

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama:
1st Choice: Hugh Laurie as Dr. House (House)
2nd Choice: Michael C. Hall as Dexter (Dexter)
3rd Choice: Kyle Chandler as Coach Eric Taylor (Friday Night Lights)

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama:
1st Choice: Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick (The Good Wife)
2nd Choice: Connie Britton as Principal Tami Taylor (Friday Night Lights)
3rd Choice: Mariska Hargitay as Det. Olivia Benson (Law & Order: SVU)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama:
1st Choice: Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman (Breaking Bad)
2nd Choice: Martin Short as Leonard Winstone (Damages)
3rd Choice: Andre Braugher as Owen (Men of a Certain Age)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama:
1st Choice: Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart  (The Good Wife)
2nd Choice: Archie Panjabi as Kalinda Sharma (The Good Wife)
3rd Choice: Christina Hendricks as Joan Harris (Mad Men) 

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama:
1st Choice: John Lithgow as Arthur Mitchell (Dexter - "Road Kill")
2nd Choice: Gregory Itzen as Charles Logan (24 - "1:00 PM - 2:00 PM")
3rd Choice: Alan Cumming as Eli Gold (The Good Wife - "Fleas") 

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama:
1st Choice: Shirley Jones as Lola Zellman (The Cleaner - "Does Everybody Have a Drink?")
2nd Choice: Lily Tomlin as Marilyn Tobin (Damages - "Your Secrets Are Safe")
3rd Choice: Ann-Margret as Rita Wills (Law & Order: SVU - "Bedtime")

Outstanding Comedy Series:
1st Choice: Glee
2nd Choice: Modern Family
3rd Choice: Nurse Jackie

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy:
1st Choice: Matthew Morrison as Will Schuester (Glee)
2nd Choice: Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory)
3rd Choice: Tony Shaloub as Det. Adrian Monk (Monk)

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy:
1st Choice: Edie Falco as Nurse Jackie Peyton (Nurse Jackie)
2nd Choice: Lea Michele as Rachel Berry (Glee)
3rd Choice: Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope (Parks and Recreation)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy:
1st Choice: Eric Stonestreet as Camerson (Modern Family)
2nd Choice: Chris Colfer as Kurt Hummel (Glee)
3rd Choice: Ty Burrell as Phil Dunphy (Modern Family)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy:
1st Choice: Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester (Glee)
2nd Choice: Julie Bowen as Claire Dunphy (Modern Family)
3rd Choice: Sofia Vergara as Gloria (Modern Family) 

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy:
1st Choice: Mike O'Malley as Burt Hummel (Glee - "Wheels")
2nd Choice: Eli Wallach as Bernard Zimberg (Nurse Jackie - "Chicken Soup")
3rd Choice: Fred Willard as Franky Dunphy (Modern Family - "Travels With Scout") 

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy:
1st Choice: Betty White as Host (Saturday Night Live - "Host: Betty White")
2nd Choice: Christine Baranski as Beverly Hofstadter (The Big Bang Theory - "The Maternal Congruence")
3rd Choice: Kathryn Joosten as Karen McCluskey (Desperate Housewives - "The Chase")

Outstanding Miniseries: (only 2 nominees, so only one pick, worth 3 points)
The Pacific

Outstanding Made for Television Movie:
1st Choice: The Special Relationship
2nd Choice: Temple Grandin
3rd Choice: You Don't Know Jack

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie:
1st Choice: Michael Sheen as Tony Blair (The Special Relationship)
2nd Choice: Al Pacino as Dr. Jack Kevorkian (You Don't Know Jack)
3rd Choice: Jeff Bridges as Jon Katz (A Dog Year) 

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie:
1st Choice: Claire Danes as Temple Grandin (Temple Grandin)
2nd Choice: Hope Davis as Hillary Clinton  (The Special Relationship)
3rd Choice: Dame Judi Dench as Miss Matty (Return to Cranford)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie:
1st Choice: Michael Gambon as Mr. Woodhouse (Emma)
2nd Choice: David Strathairn as Dr. Carlock (Temple Grandin)
3rd Choice: Patrick Stewart as Ghost / Claudius (Hamlet) 

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie:
1st Choice: Catherine O'Hara as Aunt Ann (Temple Grandin)
2nd Choice: Susan Sarandon as Janet Good (You Don't Know Jack)
3rd Choice: Julia Ormond as Eustacia (Temple Grandin)

Outstanding Animated Program:
1st Choice: The Ricky Gervais Show, Knob at Night (HBO)
2nd Choice: South Park, 200/201 (Comedy Central)
3rd Choice: The Simpsons, Once Upon a Time in Springfield (Fox)

Outstanding Voice-Over Performance:
1st Choice: Dane Castellaneta as Homer Simpson, Grampa Simpson (The Simpsons)
2nd Choice: Hank Azaria as Moe Syzlak, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon (The Simpsons)
3rd Choice: H. Jon Benjamin as Sterling Archer (Archer)

Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Series:
1st Choice: The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien
2nd Choice: The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
3rd Choice: Real Time With Bill Maher

Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Special:
1st Choice: Bill Maher "...But I'm Not Wrong"
2nd Choice: Robin Williams: Weapons of Self Destruction
3rd Choice: Wanda Sykes: I'ma Be Me

Outstanding Host For a Reality or Reality-Competition Program:
1st Choice: Tom Bergeron, Dancing With the Stars
2nd Choice: Heidi Klum, Project Runway
3rd Choice: Phil Keoghan, The Amazing Race

Outstanding Reality Program:
1st Choice: Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution
2nd Choice: Undercover Boss
3rd Choice: Dirty Jobs

Outstanding Reality-Competition Program:
1st Choice: Top Chef
2nd Choice: Dancing With the Stars
3rd Choice: Project Runway

The Neistat Brothers quietly wonderful

    HBO premiered a fairly unique series a few weeks ago called The Neistat Brothers.  It's hard to sum up what the series is about in just a few sentences, but I'll try.  Independent film makers Casey and Van Neistat make short films about their lives or interesting things they see or do.  It's part reality show, (but not in a bad, cheesy, fake way) part independent short film showcase, and part documentary.  Each episode runs a little under a half hour, and there are usually a number of different films within, with interstitials making the episode flow smoothly.  Casey and Van are young, driven, artistic, but not arrogant, young men.  The show is heart warming, humorous, entertaining, and at times, educational.  They are often joined by former boss (and a producer of the show) Tom Scott, but they seem to have full creative control themselves.

     In last night's episode, Van made 15 films of around a minute or less each, and Casey presented three five minute or less shorts in between the shorter shorts.  Casey's films concerned flying to Aspen and attending a wedding in Las Vegas, while Van's ranged from a buddy getting a box of cigars to making a super-duper tape dispenser to earning a Boy Scout merit badge.  The show itself is kind of inspiring.  After watching it, I'd love to go out and make stuff, or engage in a silly contest.  The way they film with different types of cameras helps break up the show, and because they cover such a range of topics, there's a little bit of everything to entice a wide audience.

     However, it's clear this series is not intended to be pop culture, and nor should it.  It's focused on two lives.  They are normal young men, and except for all of the travel, and financial means to make films for a loving, they are incredibly average.  But the talent shows through in the perspective and the editing, which is what is truly their special skill.  It presents a distinct point of view.

     Love it or hate it (I love it), The Neistat Brothers is something you won't see elsewhere on television.  I applaud HBO for giving them the opportunity to make something so special.  The show airs Friday nights (or Saturday mornings, depending on your perspective) at 12AM.

Friday, July 9, 2010

2010 Emmys: Drama

    Yesterday, the Emmy nominations for this year were released.  This is television's biggest awards show, and as a television reviewer, I couldn't help but be excited.  Sure, there were some snubs, but there were also some pleasant surprises.  With 51 days left until the statues are handed out on August 29th, there is plenty of time to examine who's up for what.  In this first in a series of articles, I'll look at the the big categories for Dramas.

Outstanding Drama Series: Breaking Bad (AMC), Dexter (Showtime), The Good Wife (CBS), Lost (ABC), Mad Men (AMC), True Blood (HBO).  Mad Men is favored to win for the third year in a row, so this category probably won't be much of a surprise.  However, The Good Wife got a lot of nominations, and seems to be quite the darling this year, so it could stage an upset.  It's a shame that Lost probably doesn't have a chance because it's a brilliant show that has garnered few major awards over it's six year run, despite the fact that it deserves them.  The other shows on this list are great shows, but considering they weren't able to break past Mad Men the last two years, and there weren't any gigantic, ground shaking changes, any more so than on MM, they aren't likely to do it this year either.  Too bad Friday Night Lights got the snub here.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series: Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad (AMC), Michael C. Hall, Dexter (Showtime), Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights (NBC / DirecTV), Hugh Laurie, House (Fox), Matthew Fox, Lost (ABC), Jon Hamm, Mad Men (AMC).  This list pairs pretty closely with the one above.  I am most pleased with the long overdue inclusion of Chandler, but as he hasn't even garnered a nomination for the role before, I don't think it likely.  Cranston has already taken the award the past two years.  In my opinion, Laurie most deserves it.  He took Dr. House to new levels, yet again, this past season, and it's time he was recognized for it.  Hall not so long ago valiantly fought (and beat into remission) cancer while filming his show, and had some really exciting twists this past year on screen, so I could see him taking it.  Of all of the talented actors involved in Lost, Fox is not at the top of my list at all.  It's a shame he earned a nod while so many of his more deserving cast mates did not.  That being said, I'll take anything the Emmys will give Lost, as it's been so woefully underrepresented.  This is one category, though, that any of the nominees would be deserving choices.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series: Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer (TNT), Glenn Close, Damages (FX), Connie Britton, Friday Night Lights (NBC / DirecTV), Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife (CBS), Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (NBC), January Jones, Mad Men (AMC).  Half of this list is new this year!  That sure makes things exciting.  And there's some variety of shows and networks that weren't in the above two categories.  I hope this doesn't mean Emmy voters think women can't carry a Best Drama show.  I would disagree vehemently with that.  Close is the previous winner, but I don't know that she should win again.  Sure, she was fantastic, but with so many deserving actresses out there, I hate to see the same people win over and over, and other loose out.  But Damages has likely been prematurely canceled, so she may win it out of a sense of completion.  Britton, a first time nominee, would be my first choice, though I don't think her likely for the win.  Jones can star pensively with the best of them, but I don't think that is enough to earn her a statue.  Marguiles may be the favorite, with her new show getting so much attention, although Hargitay is long overdue, and has been nominated before without the win, so it could be time to make it up to her.  If Sedgwick wins, I'm not sure I can respect the Emmy voters' opinions anymore.

     The 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards will air live Sunday, August 29th at 8pm on NBC.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Warren the Ape monkeys around

     MTV has revived an old character and given him his own show.  Warren the Ape, aka Warren DeMontague (Dan Milano, Robot Chicken), is trying to 'put his life back together' after screwing it up with drugs, sex, and alcohol.  Except that he's not trying, really.  In the series, called appropriately Warren the Ape, he still drinks and sleeps around.  But he meets with Dr. Drew Pinsky (himself, Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew) and goes through the motions, as he is making a reality show.  Of course, the joke is that we don't live with puppets, so it's not really a reality show, but I argue it's at least as real as most of the other reality shows that MTV and similar networks put on.

     Warren doesn't look much like an ape.  He's more of a nearly shapeless pile of brown fabric with a white helmet.  But he certainly is a character.  In this week's episode, "Amends", he looked at the 12 Step Alcoholics' Recovery Program, and decided he wanted to skip straight to Step 9: Amends.  Never mind that he continues to ingest as much booze as he wants throughout the episode.  Most of the people he apologized to took it well enough, but Seth Green, his former Greg the Bunny co-star, proved difficult.  Turns out, Warren forgot that he had slept with Seth's girlfriend, and by the end of the half hour, had slept with Seth's current wife, fiance for the episode's purpose.  (It was probably filmed before the wedding, but the two were wed in real life in early May 2010).

     It's hard to tell sometimes what the show considers fantasy and what it considers reality.  Was Greg the Bunny a show they made, or did they work for the kids' show chronicled on Greg?  But the show obviously has crass taste.  The best gag so far was when Warren took a busload of school children to a strip club.  The ape frequently visits the strip club in the series, and the strippers all know him.  It's not a new twist to see a washed up actor hanging out at such establishments, imbibing copious amounts of booze, and behaving obnoxiously.  However, since this time it's a puppet, it's more entertaining than sad.  And it's always nice to see some form of Greg's legacy live on.

     The show also stars Josh Sussman (Glee) as Warren's timid assistant, who goes along with any scheme, no matter how crazy.  I'm sure it's hard to act with puppets, but Josh pulls it off seemingly easily, with none of the cheesiness inherent in the practice.

     Warren the Ape airs Monday nights at 10:30pm on MTV.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Persons Unknown makes summer a little more mysterious

     NBC's Persons Unknown has already aired five episodes, but I hesitated to do an initial review because the first episode left me confused and didn't seem like a fair representation of the series.  Seven strangers woke up in a hotel, not knowing where they were or how they got there.  Now that a few episodes have passed, the second one being the only one that really stunk and bored me, I feel I can make a better judgment.  The show struggles to imitate The Prisoner, but falls far shy of that work, at least, the classic version.  However, it's worth a watch, and as the advertisements promise that everything will be revealed by summer's end, it may unfold some intriguing mysteries in the process, without leaving viewers unsatisfied.  That would point to this being more of a miniseries than a series, which honestly, may be better.  While I have been entertained, I don't see Persons Unknown sustaining years worth of interest.

     The central character seems to be Janet Cooper (Daisy Betts, Australia's Out of the Blue).  We saw her before she was kidnapped, and the main plot outside the prison / town follows her ex-husband, Mark (Gerald Kyd, the UK's Casualty) tracking her down.  Why he left her when she was pregnant, then changed his name and became a reporter is also unexplained thus far, but I assume that it will be connected to the rest of the questions left unsolved as of yet.  Honestly, from my current standpoint, the biggest mystery is why the people were chosen for the experiment in the first place.  For Janet, it could be as simple as her mother (Lee Purcell) paid someone to get her out of the way.  The mother seems to want a second chance at raising a child, and Janet's daughter

     Obviously they weren't just taken at random, but not each prisoner is important.  Or perhaps none of them are.  Tori (Kate Lang Johnson), while one of the original group, was picked up by a taxi at the end of episode four, and then apparently her dead body was dumped in a fountain, although viewers saw nothing between the two scenes.  Tom (Reggie Lee, Prison Break) seemed ready to let Janet die in the vault this week.  At least one, Joe (Jason Wiles, Third Watch) is on at least part of the scheme, as he has confronted Tom several times in the latter's secret spying room.  But Tom says he and Joe are being watched and tested, so I don't know who is behind them, or even if the entire situation is merely a training ground for Joe and Tom.  Another one of the group, Graham (Chadwick Boseman, Lincoln Heights) is convinced it's a military training ground, so perhaps there's something to his theory.

     Although many of the actors above have few credits to their name, the show does boast some real talent as well.  Alan Ruck (Spin City, Star Trek: Generations, Ferris Bueller's Day Off) was the reason I tuned in in the first place.  Sean O'Bryan is also a familiar face.  Better yet, the newest abductee is played by Kandyse McClure, almost unrecognizable in a drastically different part than the one she perfected on the recent incarnation of Battlestar Galactica.  I think one of the more interesting and mysterious, but understated elements of the series is the night desk clerk, played by Andy Greenfield.  And the other actors hold their own against these four.

     All in all, the acting is pretty good, the production style is fresh, and the writing is decent.  As long as it fulfills it's promise of a limited-run show, I think it could be a real winner.  NBC's web site still lists the show as running Mondays at 8pm, but according to my TiVo, the next episode will air Saturday, July 17th.  I hope that isn't a sign that the series will be pulled prematurely.