Sunday, September 25, 2011

Tricia's New TV Challenge, Part II

Here’s what the challenge is all about: I watch and then review each new show’s pilot episode on the big five networks; ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and The CW. This is going to be the year I do it. Check out Part One here.

This past week was the big week. I’ve got eight new shows here for you. Add in all the returning shows I normally watch and I watched 19 premiere episodes of television this week. Not counting the stuff that had premiered previously and I was watching subsequent episodes of or the shows on cable. My apartment is a mess. But I challenged myself. And I can’t let me win.

2 Broke Girls, CBS – Mondays, 8:30/7:30c

You can watch the pilot on

Has anyone else ever noticed that anytime a movie star shows up on a sitcom they appear to be overacting like a fiend? They could be insanely talented on the big screen, but something happens when they set foot on that soundstage. My favorite example of this is Brad Pitt’s appearance on “Friends,” as funny as the guest spot was, it was just painful at parts. Another, more recent example, is Matt Dillon on “Modern Family;” not his best stuff. Kat Dennings is not exactly a movie star, but she’s definitely suffering from this phenomenon. We all know her best from movies like House Bunny and Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist, and interestingly enough she plays more or less the exact same character in everything she’s ever been in. “2 Broke Girls” is no exception, she still plays a cute snarky girl with an acidic tongue. But somehow on this program she’s less convincing, almost like the live studio audience makes her uncomfortable. And who could blame her? She has to wait those extra beats as they laugh and I imagine nothing could feel more unnatural for an actor who is used to only needing to cater to the camera.

I wish I could say Dennings’ acting is the biggest hurdle this show has to overcome, after all that is something that could be worked on and fixed. But “2 Broke Girls” also has to deal with its predictable writing and repetitive story line. Here’s the breakdown, a former rich girl whose daddy pulled off some pretty heinous white collar crimes ends up in a Brooklyn diner looking for a job out of the way of high society and meets another girl, who is used to being poor and holds down two jobs. They bond despite their differences and ultimately move in together and come up with a plan to open their own bakery shop in a year (there’s even a running total of their savings that will appear throughout the series.) Did I mention that by the end of the show there’s a horse living on the patio of their apartment? Yeah, there’s that too.

Beth Behrs is perhaps the brightest part of the show as Caroline the rich- turned- broke girl. Hopefully, her ease in delivery and confidence will rub off on Dennings who at this point looks to be faking it. Though part of the issue could be just in her character; this show is co-produced by comedian Whitney Cummings (whose own show also premiered this week, see below) and it’s pretty clear Dennings’ Max is based on her own humor and personality and seeing how I find Cummings grating, it only makes sense Max would annoy me as well.

Prediction: This show has all the markings of a CBS comedy and since it’s on between “How I Met Your Mother” and the retooled “2 & a Half Men” there’s no reason why it shouldn’t do well. And if Dennings and the writing staff can figure this whole sitcom thing out, there’s also no reason why it can’t be more than mediocre. Except for that horse. Get rid of the dumb horse. I give it at least a season two pick up.

The Playboy Club, NBC – Mondays, 10/9c

You can watch the pilot episode on or

You know how sometimes you challenge yourself to watch all the pilot episodes of all the new shows of the season? And how this means watching a few shows that you have no interest in and were pretty confident you wouldn’t like? And then one of those shows ends up surprising you? No? Just me? Well, that’s how I ended up feeling about “The Playboy Club.” And, frankly, I’m a little upset about it. How dare NBC make me think I was tuning in to a somewhat brainless, boring, attempt at getting viewers based solely on pretty girls in leotards and bunny ears with a little Eddie Cibrian thrown in for the ladies. Instead, I got a group of interesting characters who I honestly want to know more about.

Sure, it isn’t a perfect show. Cibrian overacts in everything and this is no different. They attempt to grab us with some lame story involving a dead mafia don who put his hands on the wrong new bunny, but what really piqued my interest was the slow unraveling of who these girls are (especially the storyline fronted by Leah Renee Cudmore’s Alice). This show is less about the Club and more about the women behind the ears and fluffy tails. How did they end up here? What are they looking for? What do they have to lose? This is what will keep me tuning in for at least a few more episodes. Not the love triangle. Not the tension supplied by the mafia’s presence. Not the wonder if we’ll ever see Hugh Heffner’s face (he’s pulling a Charlie Townsend thus far). But the girls, which is interesting considering this is what kept the Key Club members coming back as well.

Prediction: I don’t think many people will look past the expected any more than I wanted to, so I don’t think it will be around much longer. Of course I could be wrong, but it is up against “Castle” and “Hawaii Five-0” both of which have pretty dedicated fans who are the target demographic of the show. I don’t expect a full season.

Unforgettable, CBS – Tuesdays, 10/9c

Go to to watch the pilot.

Those bunnies have got nothin’ on Poppy Montgomery. No matter what I thought of this show the fact remains: she is the most attractive person on television. And I’m including the boys from “Supernatural” on this.

This was the last show to be cleared from my DVR this week. Not because I was dreading it, exactly, but because I knew what I was going to get. This is a standard procedural show, only Poppy plays a former cop who has the ability/curse to never forget anything. She has one of those freaky memories where she can conjure up any moment as long as she was there to solve a crime, except the one she really wants to solve; her own sister’s murder. Dun dun dunnnn.

There isn’t anything bad about this show. It was well acted, directed and the storyline was almost believable (you’ll have to excuse me that I don’t totally buy that she can notice new things when going “into” her memories). But all in all it wasn’t really exciting or new. Perfect for the CBS crowd. Boring for me.

Prediction: CBS will have to fight ABC’s “Body of Proof” for the demos they’re looking for. Luckily, it’s CBS and they have loyal viewership (read: old people). If this show was on Fridays it would clean up. But it is possible it’s too ordinary even for the typical crowd. I give it a 40% chance of survival.

The X Factor, FOX - --

Just kidding. I don’t watch reality TV.

Charlie’s Angels, ABC – Thursdays, 8/7c can give you a look at the pilot episode.

Someone please give me the hour I spent on this show back. Can we all just agree that even the original “Charlie’s Angels” show was horrible? The original thrived on hair flips and the intentional cheese factor and the winks and nods this reboot gives to those things are just groan worthy. The only way this could have worked is if they went in a totally different, dark place which they tried, to a certain extent, by making the angels former criminals rather than cops (though one was a dirty cop). And I appreciate how Bosley is not completely useless in this version as a hacker who can hold a gun. And I especially appreciate how this isn’t an extension of the movie versions Drew Barrymore produced a few years back (Barrymore also produces the series, if you couldn’t tell by the number of Cover Girl commercials).

To be fair, there was one good thing about this re-boot. Minka Kelly was convincing as the former gang member out for revenge who in the end joins the agency. Her mixture of toughness and vulnerability was impressive and I found myself wishing ABC had just developed a show around her – one without the rest of this cast, who were clearly trying too hard. She’s going to be a big star one day and ABC is going to wish they treated her better. I guess there’s always next year.

Prediction: I’m not sure how it hasn’t been canceled yet.

Person of Interest, CBS – Thursdays, 8/9c

Go to for the first episode.

A machine was created in order to sift through all the data acquired from the implementation of the Patriot Act. This machine uses the information to determine where significant loss of life will occur. It also determines the “insignificant” deaths but since the government is only interested in terrorist plots those numbers go straight to the trash. The developer of this machine decides to recruit an ex-operative to help save those on that latter list. Basically, this is “Early Edition” – the show where the guy gets tomorrow’s newspaper today- but Jim Caviezel kicks ass and gets out of impossible situations without so much of a blink. Another attempt by CBS to trick us into thinking this is not a typical procedural, “Person of Interest” is adequately performed and written but its attempt to make the audience believe this machine is watching by showing the always on security cameras and giving the feeling of Big Brother is unsettling but also feels clichĂ©. The machine spits out social security numbers and it’s up to Jesus to track down, then protect or take out the owner of that number.

CBS wants me to think this is a different kind of show since it’s produced by JJ Abrams. That’s a good argument since Abrams gave us “Lost” and my personal favorite “Fringe” but “Person of Interest” feels so familiar. And if it was going to give me something new and exciting, don’t you think the pilot episode would be the place to do it?

Prediction: If it keeps it typical, CBS fans will embrace it, but it didn’t give fans of science fiction enough to get behind it right away. It could get good, but I’m not sure it will be around long enough to get to the interesting stuff, like what happens when your number comes up? (Loom of Fate, anyone?)

Whitney, NBC – Thursdays, 8:30/9:30c

You can watch this on, but please, save yourself.

Whitney Cummings’ stand up act is about the differences between men and women. And how women act unreasonably sometimes. And yelling. There’s a lot of yelling into that microphone. So go ahead and guess what her sitcom is about?

I won’t lie, there were a few moments where I laughed or cracked a smile, but I’m still not sure if that was because I found the moment funny or if the studio audience just tricked me into laughing with them. But then that begs the question, who tricked them into laughing?

I’m going to break this down. Each network has a sitcom style and way to produce a comedy program that is uniquely theirs and anytime they venture outside of that, we notice and it’s just distracting. ABC currently has the monopoly on family based, silly, single camera comedies. FOX has a few quirky single camera shows, but really hits on their inappropriate animated shows (we’ll call them sitcoms for the purpose of this). NBC has the workplace type single camera operations that take risks and are the favorites to TV snobs like myself. And then CBS takes the cake on safe, multi-camera shows, with studio audiences/laugh tracks and flat characters. Basically, what I’m saying here, is that “Whitney” should be on CBS and needs to get off my Thursday Night NBC lineup before I lose it.

Honestly, if I talk anymore about this show, I’m going to start getting mean. So let’s just move on.

Prediction: Canceled by midseason.

Prime Suspect, NBC – Thursdays, 9/10c

Find it on

Oh, look! Another procedural! In case you guys were wondering if I liked anything this past week, know that I really enjoyed this one. It feels a little dated at times, because I like to think there are more female detectives out there than this show makes it sound, but that could be because I watch a lot of TV. Maria Bello uglies herself up as the new homicide detective who can’t get any respect in the boys club that is the NYPD. Rumor has it, she slept her way into the department and the fellas aren’t too happy about it. Bello is great as she navigates back and forth from opportunistic ladder climber to astute detective with her own style. Yeah, we’ve seen it before, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done again well. It’s pretty obvious as Jane Timoney works through her first case, (which she got by being insanely pushy after another detective, who stole the case first, dies) that these men she comes up against take issue with how she conducts herself. Meaning, she does things as a man would. Jane doesn’t bring a maternal instinct to the case, she isn’t anyone’s “good cop” and if she were a man, they would have immense respect for her, but because she’s a woman, she doesn’t conduct herself as a lady and therefore is a total bitch. So, naturally, I love her.

NBC has issues with this timeslot, so I’m not sure my liking this show will help it out any, especially seeing as it is just another procedural. Great lead character aside, it’s pretty clear it needs something else to hook a wider audience. Hopefully, we can see the lives of some of her supporting characters. I want to see these men give in and make her feel welcome one cop at a time. And then I want to see her mess up and lose a little of their respect again. We’re led to believe that this woman is not even close to being perfect, so hopefully, that means she’ll continue to be flawed.

Prediction: Your guess is as good as mine. Are audiences sick of procedurals unless they’re on CBS? Maybe. This show may prove that.

A Gifted Man, CBS – Fridays, 8/7c is where you can watch this.

Finally! Something to replace “The Ghost Whisperer.” “A Gifted Man” is about a successful NY surgeon played by Patrick Wilson who is a little self-centered. One night, he runs into his ex-wife, who he clearly still has feelings about, then has a great night catching up. The next day, he finds out his ex is actually expired, as in dead. Being a neurosurgeon he immediately suspects a tumor (though it is a little weird that he had to google it) and then decides he’s crazy. But he isn’t. Turns out she came to him because she needs him to help her finish her work. You see, while he was out making lots of money and cutting open people’s heads, she was making a difference in a free clinic.

Basically, this looks like it’s going to be one of the most predictable shows of all time. He’s going to learn how to care about people who aren’t himself and his sister and nephew (whom he barely cares about at this point) and continue to pine for a dead woman. Seriously, though, that can’t be healthy. Again, this show is well done for what it is. Wilson is convincing and shows us that movie actors can act in dramas. And I’m sure it is appealing to some people out there (read: old people) but not to me.

Prediction: Friday night CBS fans are going to love this.

And that’s finally over. Stay tuned for Part Three next week, which should only have five entries.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Tricia's New TV Challenge

Hello! Summer is over and fall premieres have begun! This means one thing, it’s time for my yearly pilot challenge. It’s simple really, every year as the new shows premiere I challenge my TV Obsessed self to watch the first episode of every new scripted network television show. And this year it gets even bigger now that I’ve reinstated The CW into my challenge – they found a loophole in my boycott since canceling “Veronica Mars” by bringing Sarah Michelle Gellar back to TV. And, yes, it’s exhausting being this big of a geek.

If you were wondering, I have yet to actually complete my challenge. I got close last year, but was unable to make myself watch “Law & Order: Los Angeles.” I just couldn’t watch another one of those.

This year, I’m doing it and you’re going to help me stay accountable. So let’s get started with a few previews I got to experience and then a few that premiered this past week.

New Girl, FOX – Tuesdays, 8/9c

“New Girl” has been available to watch OnDemand and on for a few weeks now. It premieres for real on Tuesday.

I think it’s safe to say that FOX’s “New Girl,” is one of the most looked forward to new shows this season. And how could it not be? Have you seen Zooey Deschanel? Luckily, there is more to this show than her adorableness. If you’ve seen the trailer for this show, you may be disappointed in the pilot episode, because you see most of what happens in the trailer. But, fear not, this is a television show, meaning there will be more episodes and more funny moments; it’s not a movie where you sit through it for two hours and wonder why people are laughing hysterically at stuff you saw a hundred times during commercial breaks of Sunday Night Football. There will be more funny moments, each week. Or at least, that’s the understanding of how a sitcom works. And this sitcom certainly works.

The great thing about Deschanel’s character Jess is that while she plays a dork, no one expects us think she’s not an attractive dork. Jess breaks up with her live in boyfriend and needs a place to live, ASAP. So she answers an internet ad and we get the not so original “Odd Couple” plotline. She moves in with three guys who are funny and well developed in their own right. That was my fear watching this episode; would it be three normal guys trying to deal with a girl crying on the couch making Lord of the Rings references? No, it’s three guys with their own quirks and issues, designed to make sure the entire show’s burden doesn’t fall on Deschanel’s shoulders. Unfortunately, Damon Wayans Jr played a pretty great role in the pilot episode that is going to be written out due to his commitment to his other show, ABC’s “Happy Endings.” This sucks mainly because his “Coach,” was perhaps my favorite of the three roommates, as the personal trainer who was told he’d have to work on how he deals with women; his subtlety was well done and I’ll miss it.

Bottom line, “New Girl” is still one of my most looked forward to shows this season. Honestly, I’ve always thought the female dork demographic has been one of the most neglected demos in TV. Women are usually either put together or a total wreck; rarely are they as complex as I expect Jess to be.

Prediction: “New Girl” will do great between “Glee” and “Raising Hope.” I predict it will be renewed for a second season.

Revenge, ABC – Wednesdays, 9/10c

“Revenge” was made available to those who downloaded the pilot script From Kindle via a passcode. It premieres this Wednesday after ABC’s awesome comedies.

I had super low expectations for this show. I’ve found that every year since “Lost” premiered networks have been trying insanely hard to get us wound up about a mystery/thriller show. Trying to recreate the love viewers had for that show is just pointless. You can’t plan something like that. Anyway, I was wrong. For the most part, “Revenge” is very upfront about it’s intentions. Basically, it’s about watching someone take down a group of horrible rich people. I have no idea how this show will keep going for years, but I can say that I’m willing to watch until it turns me off. There’s nothing really great about it; the performances are good and the tension builds well enough. It’s just that it’s a fun show to watch. Easy as that. Watching Emily VanCamp’s character mess with people and enjoy every moment is fantastic and rooting for her is easy. At least it is in Episode 1. I imagine a few wrenches in works in the future, because I’m sure not everyone she goes after will exactly deserve it. I’m also incredibly intrigued about learning more about this lead character; we see her at two different stages in her life – the present and ten years prior. Then, we get a sneak at her life in between, and all you can do is wonder what happened over those ten years, who is this girl? And that will keep me tuning in.

Prediction: I give this show a 50/50 chance of sticking around. It’s really about if anyone will tune into the first episode or not. I can’t imagine how it will attract viewers mid-season. Fingers crossed we at least get an entire season.

Ringer, The CW – Tuesdays, 8/9c

“Ringer” premiered last Tuesday. You can watch it online at

CW, you sneaky, sneaky network. I haven’t watched you since 2008 and didn’t miss you at all. And then you bring Buffy back and I’m just supposed to forgive you? Well, it worked. I watched. And I cautiously enjoyed it. Separated twins where one takes over the other’s life is a hot thing right now. Not sure why, but ABC Family is doing it right now with “The Lying Game,” and now we get a double dose of Sarah Michelle Gellar which is certainly not a bad thing. “Ringer” is slightly darker than the cable network’s version, as one twin thinks she’s taking over her dead sister’s life because she feels she needs to in order to survive a very bad man. Soon enough she finds out that her sister’s life isn’t as perfect as she had initially thought.

The show is pretty good; the performances are just tension filled enough and I especially like Ioan Gruffud’s performance as rich sis’ unhappy husband. And SMG does a great job as Bridget who is desperately just trying to survive; though I’m not too crazy about her turn as Siobhan, who comes off as a typical rich bitch. Hopefully, we’ll see more development between these two characters as the show goes on.

The truth here, is that I’m afraid to get attached to this show. I just don’t trust The CW to be able to produce adult shows. Sure, “Supernatural” is great, as was “Smallville,” but these shows have/had elements that forced it to stay true to science fiction and superhero attributes. “Ringer” could easy become “Gossip Girl.” And if that’s the case, I’ll have no problem turning the channel. Because, honestly, there are few things that I want to see less on television than rich people’s problems.

Prediction: The nerd community is not going to let this go anywhere. But if The CW can cancel “Veronica Mars,” it can cancel anything.

Up All Night, NBC – Wednesdays, 7/8c

This show premiered last Wednesday, catch the first show on

Will Arnett and Maya Rudolph in the same show? Do I even need to review this one? Of course I loved it! The only problem is that it’s not on Thursdays. I mean, does NBC really think “Whitney” fits better into their line up? I haven’t seen that show yet, but I’ve got a pretty good idea of where that one is headed.

Anyway, “Up All Night,” is about a couple who just had a baby. It’s a simple plotline that should lend itself well to a half hour program. Christina Applegate plays working mom to Arnett’s stay at home dad, which is a nice change, especially since they have yet to throw it in our faces. “LOOK! Times are changing! TV is catching up, we swear!” And Rudolph is fantastic as the Oprah to Applegate’s Gayle; the tv host/best friend/boss who doesn’t really understand how having a baby can change someone’s life. So far, it’s a cute show, that made me laugh out loud a few times, but my hopes are pretty high for rest of the episodes.

Prediction: This fall season, half of the new shows are situational comedies. This is not the best, but it’s also not the worst, so it could go either way. Hopefully, it will reach its full potential soon, because we all know network TV is not known for its patience, though NBC did show a full season of “Outsourced,” so anything could happen. Also, I really want Arnett to get a show that lasts and that people watch while it’s on the air. It saddens me every time I hear someone talk about catching the really funny “Running Wilde” after it was already canceled. Have faith, NBC, I do!

Free Agents, NBC – Wednesdays, 7:30/8:30c

This premiered last Wednesday as well, you can also watch it on

I first want to say that I have a soft spot for Kathryn Hahn. She was on my favorite show of all time, “Crossing Jordan,” so I want so badly to see her do well. But this isn’t going to do it for her. “Free Agents” wasn’t a bad show, it was just confusing to me. It doesn’t seem like a show made for Network TV; it’s a bit dark and quirky for NBC.

Hank Azaria plays Alex a middle aged, sad man who just got divorced and is looking to “get back on the horse.” Hahn plays Helen, a sarcastic co-worker who is still grieving the death of her fiancĂ© who died suddenly a year ago. Somehow comedy is supposed to arise when the two have a one night stand.

The two leads pull off the material well; it’s believable that they are attracted to one another, but put off by similar baggage. They have a certain amount of chemistry, but it’s hard to get over the sadness inherent in both of their situations. When Alex breaks down and cries when he thinks about his kids, it’s supposed to be funny, but I have a hard time laughing. Perhaps the issue here is that these situations are so true to life that it’s hard to watch and enjoy. So the writers attempt to off set the heavy with supporting characters that are just plain bad. As much as I love seeing Buffy vet Anthony Stewart Head back on my screen, his oversexed boss character is obvious and off-putting. Then add in an angry assistant and a few guys from around the office looking to get Alex laid and you’ve got a recipe for a sitcom that tries too hard.

Prediction: I may give this one a few more chances, because I know it’s hard to introduce all characters in a pilot episode well, but I’m not expecting to like it much more than I already do. And I don’t expect the rest of the viewing public to like it either. I don’t think it’ll last a full season.

The Secret Circle, The CW- Thursdays, 8/9c

“The Secret Circle” began this past Thursday, catch it on

Note to TV Networks everywhere: if you want to suck me into a show about supernatural forces or whathaveyou, be super creepy in the first ten minutes; it also helps to kill a parent off early so I can feel sympathy and root for the main character – combine the two and I will DVR the Hell out of your show. “The Secret Circle” is a show that I can trust The CW with; it’s about teenagers who discover they are witches and create themselves a coven. Britt Robertson plays Cassie, the new girl in town that the “circle” needs to complete itself and become more powerful. Robertson is good as the lead; she mixes the excitement of this newfound experience with the distrust of the others in the situation very well, probably because she’s not actually sixteen she’s able to play a parentless, confused child with honesty and a convincing pout.

Unfortunately, the rest of the cast isn’t as convincing. You could throw a dime at your TV and hit an overactor; but this The CW, so you shouldn’t expect Emmy worthy performances.

This show was created by Kevin Williamson, the man behind “Dawson’s Creek” and the Scream franchise; which is not surprising as “The Secret Circle” could easily be a mixture of the two, a little bit of creepy, a little bit of teen angst, but then add some cool effects and you have an interesting show aimed at teenagers that delivers an enjoyable forty-five minutes of TV.

Prediction: Paired up with “The Vampire Diaries,” I don’t see how this couldn’t do well, besides being on a really busy night of television. I guess we’ll have to wait and see with this one, but I’m hoping for at least a full season before The CW makes a decision either way.

And that’s it this week! Next week will be interesting, as there are a lot of premieres of both new and old shows. Here’s hoping my DVR doesn’t explode.

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