Posts Tagged “Summer Series”
Given than the networks–broadcast and otherwise–have all but given up on Saturdays, it’s hardly any wonder that Sunday is getting overrun by reasonably good television programming. And really, they all hardly bother with Friday’s either so Sunday gets to stand-in for pretty much the entire weekend … which basically begins with your local evening news Thursday night.
For several years now, dating back to the heyday of the Sopranos, Sunday has belonged to pay cable. HBO and Showtime both display the most popular hits on the same night, though rarely against each other. Besides the Sopranos, Sunday night was home to the likes of Dexter, Sex and the City, The Wire, and other pay cable hits.
I think Weeds has a Monday night slot, but that’s more the exception.
Now the broadcast networks and others are getting comfortable in that space. Sunday nights are getting crowded.
True Blood (despite a bit of an uneven start this season) still owns the night, and Showtime keeps in the mix with The Real L Word. They don’t necessarily compete at the same time slot at least. Plus Showtime is throwing in repeats of various originals like Penn & Teller and The Green Room. (The Tudors also popped up on Sundays, but as of this week, that series has concluded.)
The broadcast nets are throwing stuff at the Sunday night wall to see what sticks, with ABC getting the best pitch … by far. The most promising new series is The Gates, preceded by The Scoundrels. The Gates appears to be painted with the same brush as True Blood (in a similar shade of crimson), populated with sexy vampires (including Rona Mitra), werewolves, and witches … oh my. The Scoundrels … much less promising, but what the hell. I’ll take a look and let you know tomorrow.
Also awaiting my attention on my TiVo is Leverage which airs on TNT. I haven’t seen enough of this one, but what I have seen so far looks pretty good. If I can just make room for it …
Fox is running out the last episodes of ‘Til Death, but I have to wonder how much longer they really plan to milk that goat. The same goes for Sons of Tucson. NBC drops in Law & Order: Criminal Intent, but fortunately I picked up most of those via USA earlier this summer.
As June swelters on into July then August, Sundays get even more crowded. AMC brings back Madmen which will eventually lead into Rubicon (one of my must see picks this summer).
On my “maybe” list for Sunday night will be Hung, which starts up in just a week or so. On my list of “not likely and hell no” are Entourage (HBO) and Big Brother (ABC).
I haven’t even mentioned Liftetime or TBS, both of whom have some kind of originals which will further clutter up Sundays. Even leaving those off my list, there is just too much TV for one evening to bare.
Fortunately, if I can’t get to ‘em sooner, they’ve left my Friday and Saturday nights wide open.
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A few favorites are making their return to a Television near you. Let’s all welcome them back by tuning them in:
True Blood: Bloodier but far less true than ever. This HBO freakshow is so far out there you just can’t help but watch. I’ve heard that it’s a hard one to pick up in midstream, but I disagree. You like all those freaky folk with fangs? Dive in! The water is about 98 degrees … and sort of a reddish color … odd …
Lie to Me: Whether you buy the whole premise behind the Lightman Group or not, this show is still a winner. No lie. House has Hugh Laurie, Lie To Me has Tim Roth. Both are ornery blokes with awesome accents, and both are almost always the smartest man in the room. If you enjoy House, you should love Lie to Me. Honest.
FlashPoint: I’ve said this before. Best show on television, hands down, every goddam summer. Just watch it already. Jeez.
So You Think You Can Dance: Yeah, yeah. You know how I feel about reality TV. Why the hell do I watch this? Doesn’t matter because I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. New rules this season, but who cares? Hot young lads and ladies doing the bump and grind … or the boogie-oogie … or krunking … Seriously, what the hell is krunking?
Eureka/Sanctuary: SpyFfy weirdness you won’t want to miss. One thing you can bet on. Somebody somewhere is gonna touch something they shouldn’t. In Utah, that usually gets you arrested. On StyFfy (aka SyFy) it’s a perfect excuse for a cool television series … or three.
Last Comic Standing: Yeah, it’s a reality show. But at least they’re trying to make me laugh on purpose.
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I’m intrigued. Mostly I would have loved to have been there when the producers/writers pitched this one …
“It’s like Big Brother meets the Real World but more like Lost. It’s an unreal reality show, you see? We can’t, like, kidnap real people and throw them in a hotel in the middle of a deserted town in the middle of nowhere (really, we can’t … we checked). But just imagine if we could … what would those people do? It’s real people in this totally creepy unreal place. You know how Lost was kind of Survivor but weird and confusing? That’s what we got here, but instead of an island, it’s a town. And instead of that Jeff Probst guy or Benjamin Linus, we use the camera thing like Big Brother! And then we make them play these games …”
Anyone remember Defying Gravity, which was kind of Lost in Space … I mean Lost, but out in space? How about The Nine? We lost patience with Flash Forward in, well, a flash.
Attention spans being what they are, I suspect Persons Unknown will meet a similarly demise. But it’s nothing personal. I could get into this. So far, instead of flashbacks and smoke monsters, we get a concurrent real world storyline involving a couple of reporters working on the missing persons in question. That’s different, if a little jarring initially, and certainly more interesting.
Honestly, is anyone at all ready for another Lost? The best thing this series could do is skip all the metaphysical mystery mash that was Lost’s stock in trade. Flash Forward went for the epic science fiction angle. Persons Unknown seems to be pursuing a framework closer to reality, more grounded if slightly less groundbreaking.
Sort of Lost for the working man … or Flash Forward for the far less nerdy.
There are a number of familiar faces in the cast, people that make you think, “Hey, I know that guy!” And yes, you probably do. That’s the uptight, mildly sleazy co-worker from Spin City (aka Ferris’ pal Cameron) … and hey, that’s Bosco from Third Watch! … Isn’t that the brunette girl form Criminal Minds (not the new one, the original one … from the Mandy Patankin days) …
I should look ‘em all up, but it’s late and I’m tired.
On the off chance this show manages to catch on … oh, who am I kidding? I could grow to like it, but there is really little point. NBC will probably cancel it before I’m done writing this …
In the meantime, if it’s still on, give it a shot.
Persons Unknown airs Mondays on NBC at 10/9c
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The month of May, and the last of the 09-10 sweeps periods, is done and gone. We wave a fond farewell to 24, Lost, Heroes, and Law & Order (OF)*. But for those of you who may be tempted to swallow your remote, turn blue, and slip into a summerlong coma … don’t go gently into that long, televisionless summer of darkness just yet. There yet remains a reason to stay indoors during all that warm weather, avoiding the harsh, cancer-inducing sunlit days of June, July and August. September seems so very far away, but I am here to offer you a lifeline … a “cable”, if you will.
Buck-up, fellow worshippers of The Almighty HD. Television still loves you.
First, lets dispense with the reality shows in general. I won’t blame you for watching So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD). Young hotties of various genders and persuasions cavorting about on stage in remarkably revealing states of dress (or undress) … hey, that gets my vote. The rest of it … meh. Last Comic Standing returns, if you like the (occasionally) funny, or Wipeout if you just admire the pain and/or humiliation our fellow humanbeings are willing do endure for our amusement. But if you’re even slightly attempted to watch Losing It with Jillian (as in Jillian “Manthing” Michaels) … just go ahead and eat that remote as originally planned. Now there’s a diet. Also making my avoid-at-all- cost-lest-mine-eyes-bleed list: The Bachelorette, Bachelor Pad, Downfall, True Beauty, Dating in the Dark, Big Brother, Wife Swap (really, this is back?), Bridal Bootcamp, America’s Got Talent (uh … no … we really don’t), and Dance Your Ass Off.
Whew. I feel so … unclean. Excuse me a second …
That’s better … sorry about that. I feel much, much better … though we may want to call in a haz-mat team. I wonder if that’s what Jillian means by “losing it”. I must have just lost a good two pounds …
Well, with that painful nonsense behind us, let’s take a quick peak at television which might actually be worth watching (and won’t induce violent regurgitation). A few highlights returning on your local networks in June: Lie to Me; Friday Night Lights; Flashpoint; Past Life; and Law & Order: Criminal Intent (sort of). Throw in a few new shows we might like: The Good Guys (recommended!); Persons Unknown; Scoundrels; The Gates, and Rookie Blue. One might even suspect that the ‘nets haven’t totally given up on summer programming after all. Still, that list is pretty damn thin.
Fortunately, the landscape is a little less arid once we leave the big boys behind.
Leading the pack (as is often the case of late) is the USA Network with several solid returning series, plus a new show or two: White Collar (season 2); Covert Affairs (new!); Psych (season 5); Burn Notice (season 4); and Royal Pains (season 2). Really, you can’t lose with any of those. And note that In Plain Sight and Law & Order: CI will air on USA for a few more weeks yet. TNT remains a major contender for summer viewers returning several very good series: The Closer (season 6); Hawthorne (season 2); Dark Blue (season 2); and Leverage (season 3). New from TNT this June is Memphis Beat (akaDelta Blues) followed something called Rizzoli & Styles in early July.
Other cable networks are also in the game this summer. ABC Family has a solid enough Monday block with The Secret Life of the American Teenager (season 3), Huge (new!), and Make It or Break It (season 2). Also from ABC Fam, Pretty Little Liars is a new drama that looks intriguing. It will air through August when it will be replaced by Melissa & Joey … which looks anything but. FX, once Justified leaves the air later this month, steps in with the return of Rescue Me (season 6) which will be paired with Louie (new!) on Tuesday nights. Amid a whole pant-load of their usual reality crap, A&E is offering us a new cop drama called The Glades.
Styffy (aka SyFy) offers some appealing summer viewing options as always. Leading off is Eureka (season 4) which will be paired with the newcomer, Haven. Later in July, Warehouse 13 (season 2) returns. Did I fail to mention Ghost Hunters? Good. They also gots wrasslin’! AMC (which still stands for American Movie Classics as far as I know) returns Madmen (season 3) to Tuesday nights and gives that critically acclaimed program a potentially equal partner with Rubicon. While I’m likely to tune in for one or both, I’m really just killing time until The Walking Deadpremiers in October.
Now on to the real meat of the summer menu this year on pay cable. Leading the pack (I know, I used this phrase already. But c’mon … they’re gonna have werewolves!) is HBO with True Blood (season 3), a bloody true pleasure every Sunday night. Less inspiring is the follow-up pairing ofHung (season 2) and Entourage (season7), two shows I routinely miss and barely notice when I do. HBO also has Hard Knocks, this year with the surprise of last NFL season, the New York Jets. It is an exception to my general dislike of (almost) all reality programming … but only if you like football. Showtime has Weeds (season 6) and The Big C (new!), a couple of oddball comedy/drama/comedy series that mine previously untapped sources of humor in the fun fields of drug-dealing and cancer. Weirdly, it works. Two more exceptions to my anti-reality-tv rules are the semi-reality comedies Penn & Teller: Bullshit (season 8) and The Green Room with Paul Provenza (new!). I don’t know what to expect from this last one, also a reality show, The Real L Word. I would occasionally catch The L Word (unreal version), but that was mostly for the hot lesbians and the nudity … interesting dramatic stories and characters were an unexpected bonus. I might have to tune this one in just to see what the hell they’re thinking … and in case there are hot lesbians and nudity.
There you have it … the quick and dirty on what to expect during the Summer of 2010. Expect a review or two, depending on how crazy life gets during the next three months. Check out the Summer Series page for more info!
*OF = Original Flavor
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Two cops, gunfights galore, car chases, a vintage 80s soundtrack, and every single buddy cop cliche known to man. Oh … and a completely gnarly ‘stache. Seriously, who would dare ask for more?
The Good Guys, as television programming goes, is pure summer fluff. But if it were up to me, they would get an Emmy for the Trans Am alone. Bradley Whitford (The West Wing) is Dan Stark, the man behind the mustache. He’s sort of TJ Hooker meets Thomas Magnum, an 80′s cliche with a 70′s sense of style. He’s a punchline just waiting to happen. Colin Hanks is his partner and straight man, Jack Bailey (how long is it going to take Stark to figure out his partner is named after not one, but two brands of booze?). It’s Jack’s job to reign in Stark’s insanity as much as possible. Fortunately, it’s just not all that possible.
This show has tongue so firmly embedded in cheek you have to wonder how anyone manages to actually say their lines. Around every corner is another tried but true crime drama plot device … right there where they have no choice but trip over it. Every move they make seems to get them deeper into trouble while closer to solving the crime of the week.
During the pilot, that crime of the week was a stolen humidifier. Don’t even ask where the South American Drug Lord comes into it. Or how they manage to get into not one, not two, but three gunfights with the number one AND number two assassins in the world. Or what the hell Eric Estrada has to do with any of it. It’s not giving anything away to point out that, by the end of the pilot, Stark and Bailey do indeed solve the crime in question. And Stark gets the girl … and the car.
I doubt that Fox has much faith in this odd little show (the short-lived but equally charming Keen Eddie jumps to mind), but they could have a winner here. Fortunately, whether they stick with it or not, it’s the kind of show you know you can enjoy … no matter how long the ride.
Just buckle up, crank up the 80s soundtrack, kick back and enjoy. After all, you’re riding in a Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, Baby … and Jack Stark is behind the wheel.
The Good Guys airs Mondays on Fox at 9/8c
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How did this happen? I’m supposed to be plugged in, at one with my TiVo*. Yet somehow Defying Gravity slipped in under my radar. I have heard absolutely nothing about it. If I had encountered even the smallest rumor regarding a show about a six year mission to explore the solar system … well, I’m there.
The year is 2052 and the Antares is blasting off to Venus, the first stop on a multi-planet tour of the neighborhood. That is so cool. Not so cool is the often alluded to “big secret” being harbored by the folks in charge. Based on what I’ve seen so far, the secret is they really aren’t in charge at all. There is someone or something else out there making the calls … something called “beta”.
Secrets. That word describes Defying Gravity quite succinctly. Everybody has secrets. There’s Beta, the big secret often referred to simply as “it”. There are the little secrets between members of the Antares’ crew. Then there are the endless number of secrets to be unlocked by the mission itself. Based on the way ABC rolled this series out, I doubt we’ll get to see many of those answers if any.
But one can always hope.
The concept is solid. Better than solid. And the plot moves along at a steady pace, featuring flashbacks and the odd dream sequence or two as key elements. There are a number of casual references to the current political climate, plausible little bits and pieces which serve to keep things interesting.
Ron Livingston plays Maddux Donner. He is one of many familiar faces among an eclectic ensemble cast which includes Karen LeBlanc (ReGenesis), Christina Cox (Blood Ties), Ty Olsson (Flight 93), Paula Garces (The Shield), and Malik Yoba (New York Undercover). Much of the plot revolves around Livingston (Sex and the City, Standoff) as “bad boy/good guy” astronaut Donner. Opposite him in an equally pivotal role is Laura Harris as a rookie crew member named Zoe Barnes. Harris (Dead Like Me, 24) is one of those actresses you can’t help but watch. In fact, this is a great cast from top to bottom; I can’t really point to a weak spot.
Maybe that is what troubles me. Between a terrific concept, a tightly plotted storyline, compelling narrative devices, and a great cast there is almost no way this series will really get the chance it deserves from ABC. It would be a perfect fit for StiFfy (aka SyFy) after ABC lets it die on the vine, but that’s unlikely to work out either.
I believe that Defying Gravity is a trip worth taking, a clear step above almost anything else on network TV. This show has the potential of Lost and Heroes. Sure, those two series have been a bit uneven, but they both deserve their cult following. Cult or no, I’m going to enjoy following the Antares while it lasts, all the while hoping that Defying Gravity manages to defy the odds and stick around a bit.
Defying Gravity airs Sundays on ABC at 10/9c
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Dark Blue: Wanted meets The Handler
Undercover cops have been done and redone by television for decades. Some successfully, others much less so. The only thing “new” that Dark Blue really brings to the table is the idea that this undercover squad doesn’t officially exist. But that is also a fairly common gimmick for such shows and in almost every movie about the subject from The Departed to Raw Deal. TNT has never really been about originality. Look at the junior net’s schedule for any given day … originality doesn’t exactly jump out at you. But, occasionally, they still manage to deliver something with just the right combination of formula, concept, and casting. The Closer, for example, is not much more than Columbo in a skirt. But it works, thanks to casting and some very solid performances.
The things is, I’m not entirely sure that Dark Blue has that winning combination. Back in 2004, TNT brought us Wanted, a show about a cross-section of specialists from a variety of law enforcement organizations forming a unit that “didn’t really exist” and “operated just outside the rulebook”. That show I liked and I can’t help but see Dark Blue as a paler shade of Wanted. Dylan McDermott leads the cast as Carter Shaw, your brooding, sexy with a touch of angst hero type. Joe Pantoliano did it better in CBS’s The Handler, another short-lived cop drama from 2004. McDermott is no Joey Pants, but then, he isn’t David Caruso either. He is the leading man type, which is maybe enough to lead the rest of the lesser known cast beyond one season.
The best thing Dark Blue has going for it is the name Jerry Bruckheimer in the credits. The plot and acting are both a cut above certain other Bruckheimer productions (ref: David Caruso mentioned above). Even when Bruckheimer projects are lacking in depth, they often make up for it in production value. As astonishingly shallow and silly as CSI: Miami might be, it looks good. Dark Blue is not nearly as glossy, but maybe that means they can throw some of that Bruckheimer money at better writers. Unfortunately, there is little to be seen in the first episode to support that theory. One can hope this series will get stronger with age. If it doesn’t, not even the Bruckheimer name will save it for a second season.
Leverage: The Equalizer meets The A-Team
This time, TNT isn’t even pretending to be original. Anyone remember the A-Team? How about The Equalizer? Leverage has all the character humor of the A-Team (including their own version of the conman archetypes) with a healthy dose of The Equalizer’s ideology. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it also can pay off in certain circumstances … such as network TV. This must be one of those circumstances since Leverage is into its second season. Of course, TNT managed to leverage an audience share from a strong lead-in last summer with The Closer, landing Leverage some pretty nice numbers for cable. This time, the show is paired with Dark Blue and now it is the lead-off hitter, neither of which suggests much of a chance for a repeat ratings performance.
Timothy Hutton (long removed from his Oscar) is the mastermind of a team of con artists and reformed crooks. This team doesn’t have Mr. T, but they do have their own Hitter (Christian Kane). They also have a Grifter, a Thief, and a Hacker to round out the team … it says so right in the opening credits. The con jobs are all pretty straightforward fare, with the standard plot point these shows always fall back on: the original con will almost certainly go wrong, but our team is too good to fail and there is always another con right around the corner.
So it’s been done. But think back to the A-Team. You didn’t get any more shallow or derivative than that. Every episode was unfailingly just like every other episode. Yet we watched five seasons worth of it back in the 80′s. And, coming soon to a theater near you, we get a theatrical version. We didn’t watch this stupid show for the plots. We watched for the characters … and how those same characters played off each other. This is where Leverage might actually succeed. Here we have just the right balance of tom-foolery and tongue-in-cheek to make these characters humorous without being cartoonish. The whole ‘Robin Hood’ shtick only works if you can put together the right band of merry men. I kind of think they have.
Leverage airs on TNT Wednesdays at 9/8c followed by Dark Blue at 10/9c
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Hey, do me a favor. When you finish watching the lovely ladies and studly guys cavorting across the stage of So You Think You Can Dance, pick up your remote and find The Philanthropist. The timing works out just right and you’ll be better for it.
NBC has billed The Philanthropist as an eight part drama. I suppose that means they will air those eight episodes and be done with it. They’ve only produced eight, so I will count myself lucky if all eight get broadcast. This is NBC afterall.
James Purefoy potrays Teddy Rist, a millionaire corporate playboy type based losely upon the real-life Bobby Sagar. I’m certain Teddy’s character is highly exagerated, as most TV characters are, filled with equal parts charisma and angst, arrogance and humanity, determination and cynicism. Purefoy strikes the perfect balance in the role. The rest of the cast ranges from adequate (Neve Campbell) to compelling (Michael K. Williams).
The concept is pretty simple really. A man with tons of money decides he needs to give a lot of it away. Only it’s never that simple, not if you want to give the money where it will do the most good, in some of the most troubled and deprived places on Earth. This series is about a lot more than it’s protagonist. It’s about the state of the world today. We’ve heard all the names: Nigeria, Somalia, Darfur, Myanmar. The series goes there, but carries the fight to other less obvious places like Paris where it confronts other serious social issues. There’s a great deal of swash and plenty of buckle, sure. But there is also something deeper and more important under the surface that makes the show work.
The success of the series, short-lived or not, rides on Purefoy and the story telling. Even when you are giving it away, it’s not a great time to be a Wallstreet wiz. Yet Purefoy makes this guy very likeable, even before he starts spreading the wealth. And Purefoy has the physicallity needed to make all of Teddy’s extreme adventures believable. This is all done without being heavy-handed or the least bit preachy. For example, take this quote from Teddy’s profile on the Maidstone-Rist official website: “Teddy is often found flying on his brand-new fuel-efficient G550 Gulf Stream jet …”
Sure, it’s a website for a fictional company, but you don’t write a line like that without being aware of the irony. It perfectly describes Teddy’s chutzpah.
So, please take my advice. As much as we all like the sizzle and flash of SYTYCD, check out The Philanthropist before calling it a night. Maybe you’ll go to bed thinking about something a little more significant than smoking hot dancers.
Though I honestly believe there is always time for that as well …
The Philanthropist airs Wendesdays on NBC at 10/9c.
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