Sunday, September 30, 2012

If this is The New Normal, I'm all for it.

It's that time of year again, everyone is back at school and stress sets in about tests, papers etc. My stress level in the fall has nothing to do with school and is based solely on the fact that my DVR is jam packed and I can't find the time to keep up with it. 

This year the fall pilots are unusually strong. I actually haven't seen much that I haven't liked at least enough to catch the next episode and I'm really looking forward to writing about a lot of them. 

Sitcoms are especially likeable this year which I'm incredibly happy about because it is going to take at least three great shows to fill the void I will feel when 30 Rock is no longer on my television at the end of this season.

While I've loved a lot of new comedy pilots this year, "The New Normal", NBC's new show about a gay couple using a surrogate to have a child, is by far the best new comedy this season.  I had my doubts since it was developed by "Glee" creator Ryan Murphy (because I'm pretty sure that if for any reason someone wanted to torture me, making me watch episodes of "Glee" would be the best way to do it) but I was pleasantly surprised. 

This is one of the few shows that I think accurately portrays a gay couple ("Brothers and Sisters" also did a really good job with Kevin and Scotty) and really shows the challenges that unfortunately still come with being gay today while still making you laugh out loud at every turn. Andrew Rannells and Justin Bartha as Bryan and David have so much chemistry and you can't help but love them and want good things for them. Georgia King plays Goldie their surrogate, a newly almost divorced woman who moves to LA to escape a crazy grandmother and cheating husband with her eight year old daughter, played by Bebe Wood. The entire cast is outstanding but it's Goldie's grandmother, who follows her to LA played by Ellen Barkin that steals the show.

I don't know how they got Ellen Barkin to do a tv show, and to be honest I don't really care, the point is, she is amazing in this role. She is a bigot, she is mean, she says whatever she thinks, she is pretty awful, but she is damn fun to watch. Barkin plays the role of Jane so well that even when she is saying and doing completely ridiculous things, you can't help but like her a little...ok, a lot. 

The show is also written pretty flawlessly. Murphy and his co-creater Ali Adler have created a show that if watched by enough people could possibly (hopefully) incite social change. In one scene, David and Bryan are shopping at the mall for baby clothes and this causes some excitement and the exchange of a small kiss between the couple. A man with his wife and daughter witnesses the kiss and with disdain asks them not to kiss in front of his child. The scene is not surprising and reminds us that we have a long way to go in terms of equality, but the ability to see how it impacts David and Bryan is why this show is so important. To see how just one comment can cause so much pain and stress on two people who just want to love each other and be together, is eye opening and something people need to see. 

Please watch this show, I wish there were more like it. The cast is outstanding, the writing is poignant and hilarious all at the same time and did I mention Ellen Barkin?! 

Adler and Murphy have created something that is brilliantly funny while also portraying a healthy, functional relationship between two men, something that exists all over this country but not nearly enough on our televisions.  

If this is "The New Normal" I'm all for it.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Gladiators in Suits...

First "Crossroads", then "Grey's Anatomy" and "Private Practice"...Shonda Rhimes keeps finding the way to my heart. I can't stop watching "Grey's Anatomy", no matter how hard I try, and Addison Montgomery flawed as she may be, has become one of my favorite female television characters of all time. I thought that after the major flop that was "Off the Map" that maybe Rhimes had lost her touch, I mean, if you can't make a series starring Matt Saracen work, it might be time to hang it up. Enter..."Scandal".

"Scandal" is good. The kind of good that starts with one episode but ends up taking up half your day. If the "West Wing" got "Grey's Anatomy" pregnant..."Scandal" would be their very entertaining, very dramatic love child.  It has all of the standard Rhimes talking characters, drama, and strong women but other than that, it's hard to explain. 

Kerry Washington is flawless as Olivia Pope; the kind of woman that you instantly fear and equally respect. She employs a group of people reminiscent of the Island of Misfit Toys. One is the victim of an abusive relationship and another used to kill people in his spare time...many of them are lawyers, but don't call them a law firm, they don't like that, they prefer "gladiators in suits". This is where it gets complicated. I don't actually know what they are, what they do, or who lets them get away with it, but it is damn fun to watch. The only thing viewers know for sure is that Pope is one of the good guys. She and her team help people that need it, and make doing the right thing a priority...they make mistakes, sometimes serious ones but their hearts are always firmly in the right place. 

Scandal was a midseason replacement much like Grey's Anatomy's so it's first season is short. All seven episodes are available on Hulu Plus, trust me it's worth the $7.99, because with a monthly subscription you also have access to every episode of Community, #jackpot. 

Catch up on season one of Scandal before season two starts on ABC in September and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

There's only one Tree Hill...

Up until now I have reserved this blog for reviewing new shows and making incessant Friday Night Lights references. But something happened the other night that forces me to write an entry about a show that is anything but new. The final episode of One Tree Hill aired last week and it just happened to be it's 187th, which means it produced more episodes than Seinfeld, I Love Lucy, and the Golden Girls.  Some people will hear that and think it's ridiculous, but then, those aren't the people who have spent the past nine years with these characters...

One Tree Hill started out as a guilty pleasure for me- I was 22 when it premiered, and should have been far past the high school angst that Chad Michael Murray and crew were going through every week and truth be told I think I was just trying to fill the void that Dawson's Creek left in my life...hey, at least I'm not being dramatic about it. Alas, whatever the reason, I fell in love with this show. One Tree Hill was full of complicated simplicity (it's my blog, I'll use oxymoron's if I want to) that focused on universal things like friendship, loyalty, heartbreak, mistakes, love, grief and so many other experiences and emotions that are rights of passage in this thing called life. In nine years, we watched these characters go through things that we had gone through, or things we knew that we were sure to go through in the future. Even when the story lines got crazy (i.e. nanny carrie and the dog eating Dan's heart), we trusted that it would eventually get back to it's roots, and it always did.

It was a show that wasn't afraid to take risks. Beloved characters were killed off, main characters left and college was skipped completely by a five year time jump that has since been replicated by other shows like Desperate Housewives. It also took a risk and filmed entirely on location and on sound stages in Wilmington, North Carolina, helping the show to look and feel real and also supporting the economy in a small, beautiful coastal town. Hart of Dixie and Revenge both shot their pilots in the same small town but moved production to Los Angeles for the rest of their seasons. Scott Porter, who is currently starring in Hart of Dixie told me that they were going to do their best to make it look real, unfortunately, it's pretty obvious that they filming in Stars Hollow (Gilmore it...if you don't like it, I'm pretty sure you don't like me). Actors don't want to live away from Los Angeles, I get it, it's not convenient, which makes the fact that the cast of One Tree Hill not only did it for 9 years, but did it while they continued to rave about how much they love Wilmington, pretty commendable.

Almost every season of this show ended with a potential finale because the next was never guaranteed but some how, it lasted 9 seasons.  I think it can be attributed to an incredibly strong fan base and an incredibly kind cast. Every year, thousands of people flocked to Wilmington, NC to watch them film the show and to catch a glimpse of the cast. My sister and I vacation in Wilmington every summer and happened to bump into Sophia Bush at one of our favorite restaurants in town. We said hello and that we were fans of the show and then planned to continue on our way but Sophia treated us like we were long lost friends. We chatted with her for quite awhile and she is, to this day, one of the most interesting and genuine people I have ever met.  Throughout the years in Wilmington, I have had to opportunity to talk with a lot of the cast and crew and even show creator Mark Schwahn and each and every one of them have been nothing but warm, kind and appreciative. Knowing the caliber of character behind this show made me love it even more.

The finale was no exception to the love and appreciation that One Tree Hill shows to it's fans. It's not often that you love a show and think the finale is absolutely flawless (I'm looking at you LOST fans) and anyone that knows me knows that I can be extremely critical, however, I wouldn't change a single thing. The inside jokes (Felix), the nostalgia (the water balloons, predictions, flashbacks, Gavin DeGraw etc.), and the just plain happy ending were an absolute perfect way to say goodbye to characters that a lot of people have essentially grown up with. And, I'm pretty sure Mark Schwahn was trying to kill all of us with the cast sing along- I Don't Wanna Be...really?! It was amazing.

I'm not trying to preach that you all need to watch this show, because the fact is, not everyone should. Someone said to me recently that you have to be a really sentimental person to like it and I couldn't agree more. You have to be someone that often thinks about past memories, relationships, and heartbreaks  fondly, not because they were all wonderful, and definitely not because they weren't painful but because they are part of you, and you are grateful for that. It also helps if you are blindly optimistic enough (read: crazy) to believe that marriage in high school really can last I said it's not for everyone. :)

Thanks OTH for nine great seasons, we will miss you.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Where is Don Draper when you need him?

Since "Mad Men" began in 2007, Don Draper has brought a serious dose of nostalgia to our televisions every Sunday night and will again starting in March 2012. "Mad Men" has been such a huge hit that it has directly impacted America from bringing back retro wardrobe pieces to drinking our beverages in high ball glasses and it no doubt has been the impetus for at least one of the million Kennedy projects that we have been exposed to over the last few years. The writing and acting is so solid that it sometimes feels like a documentary instead of the fictional drama that it really is. 
So, it's no surprise that copy cat shows have come out of the woodwork to capitalize on our new found love of all things 60's.  This season, NBC premiered "The Playboy Club" which was cancelled after only a few episodes, and ABC put all of their 60's eggs in the "Pan Am" basket.  "Pan Am" is still hanging on, despite ratings falling, it premiered to around 11 million and recent episodes are down to about 5 million. Probably because, well, the show just isn't that good.  

"Pan Am" should be better because "Mad Men" has given networks a perfect blue print for what a period show should be.  Plus, any show set in the 60's is already at an advantage based solely on the style and allure of that time.  You could watch Pan Am on mute and the show would be beautiful, from the costumes, to the set decoration, to the airplanes that put our current ones to shame, this show is extremely aesthetically pleasing, but it's just not enough.

I really wanted to like this show. It's seventh episode will air tonight and I kept putting off writing this post because so far "Pan Am" has been like that friend that you really want to like, so you stick it out for awhile and hope that those nagging annoyances in the back of your head will go away and everything about them won't drive you crazy if you just wait one more week to stop hanging out with them. I think it's time for "Pan Am" and I to stop hanging out. I can't really understand what this show is trying to be. In the beginning, it seemed like it was going to focus on female co-workers, their friendships and their struggles, primary revolving around being a woman in an era when they were still seen as primarily sex objects. However, as time goes on, the show seems to following tired story lines and I'm having a hard time following, caring about, or believing the story line that a Pan Am stewardess is also a CIA covert operative. 

The worst part about "Pan Am" though, is that despite pretty solid performances by the female cast, especially Christina Ricci, I just don't feel any attachment to these characters at all. I'm not sure where they lost me, but I think it's fair to blame the writing which has caused a serious lack of character development and ultimately if one of the "Pan Am" flights went down with half of the primary cast on it, I wouldn't really care.  The men especially lack the spark that Jon Hamm brings to "Mad Men" as Don Draper, a spark that allows us to forgive all of the things he does including but not limited to cheating and lying. Hamm has created a character that we love through all of his up's and down's and one that we make excuses for because he has made us believe that underneath it all, his troubled past has clouded his judgement and that ultimately he is a good doesn't hurt that he is also unbelievable attractive. Hamm isn't the only strong male character on "Mad Men" and the pilots and politicians on "Pam Am" really just look weak in comparison...and why are none of them ever smoking!? It's the 60's, every room should have a cloud of smoke in it.  My guess is censoring by ABC's parent me crazy but I appreciate accuracy in my television.

While I know it is unfair to compare any show to the genius that is "Mad Men", the "Pan Am" creative team should have known that ultimately, that is what they are up against. I'm not going to produce a show about a group of people crash landing and trying to survive on a deserted island unless I know I can compete with JJ Abrams, it might not be fair, but it's reality. 

I wish "Pan Am" was better.  I love period shows and I think this one really had potential but ultimately, I'm going to blame poor casting of the male leads and writing that didn't connect me to any of the characters. I guess I'm just going to have to wait until March to get my 60's fix. If any of you haven't had a chance to catch up on "Mad Men" yet, I highly recommend giving it a chance. Use this link to purchase season one of "Mad Men" on Amazon for less than 12 dollars!

Let me know what you are thinking about "Pan Am" in the comments section below, I'm sure some of you disagree with my opinion and I'm interested to hear what people are thinking about this show!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

If you aren't watching aren't watching the best show on television.

It's hard for me to choose my favorite tv shows because I love a lot of them for different reasons. Until recently, if someone asked me what my favorite was they would get a list that would be at least three shows long, and ultimately after having to listen to me talk forever, would probably regret asking the question at all. However, last year I decided to check out a show that raised the bar on my expectations of what television was capable of.

Since then, I can say unequivocally that my absolute favorite show is "Friday Night Lights". Anyone that has read my blog won't be surprised by that and in fact, many of you are probably sick of hearing about it (there is an easy solution to that problem, watch it already so I can stop talking about it!). Rest assured this isn't a post about "Friday Night Lights" but since I put it in a class of it's own, the fact that I am about the review a show that I can say is almost just as good as "Friday Night Lights" really speaks volumes.

If you aren't watching "Parenthood", you are absolutely missing out. Since the show was developed by Jason Katims, the head writer of "Friday Night Lights", it's no surprise that "Parenthood" has the potential to change the way you look at your family, your relationships and the way that you live your life.

Centering on the Braverman family which is comprised of Zeke played by Craig T. Nelson and Camille played by Bonnie Bedelia, as well as their four adult children, this show will make you laugh but more often it will be so relatable, it will make you cry. 

Oldest child Adam and his wife Kristina have three children, teenage daughter Haddie, son Max and new baby Nora. Their son Max, who is now in fifth grade is played by Max Burkholder. Max has Asperger's syndrome and it is commendable the attention "Parenthood" is bringing to the struggles that parents of children on the autism spectrum face, as well as how it impacts the child and other family members. Burkholder's performance is nothing short of Emmy worthy.

Zeke and Camille's oldest daughter is played by one of my favorites, Lauren Graham. I loved her as Lorelai Gilmore and I couldn't have been happier when she was cast as Sarah Braverman. Graham's portrayal of a single mother left to raise two teenagers when her alcoholic musician ex decides that responsibility just isn't his thing is flawless. 

Crosby, Sarah and Adam's younger brother played by Dax Sheppard, is the self proclaimed screw up of the family and finds out in the pilot episode that he has a son, Jabbar, that he was previously unaware of. Crosby has a realization that he needs to start taking some responsibility in his life and watching his relationship with his son develop will make you fall in love with him even when he makes some questionable choices. 

Youngest Braverman Julia, is a working mom struggling with trying to balance her work as a lawyer with motherhood while her husband stays at home with their daughter Sydney. Julia's jealousy that her husband gets to stay home coupled with his frustration at needing to, creates some problems in their marriage and their portrayals of a young couple struggling with very normal, very real problems are spot on. 

This show is perfectly cast, perfectly written and is the most realistic portrayal of a family that I have seen on television in a long time. I promise that if you just watch one episode of this show, you will love it. Sometimes, television has the ability to make you feel and to reflect on your life, relationship and your family. Sometimes, television even has the possibility to change your life. "Parenthood" is that kind of television. 

It's currently in it's third season and hopefully it will be around for a long time.  If you already watch it, I'm preaching to the choir, because you already know how amazing it is. If you haven't seen it yet, stop reading this and make it happen. Season one is on sale on starting at $17.00 and season one is streaming on Netflix. Stop watching crappy reality tv and start watching something that has the potential to make you a better parent, child, husband, wife, brother, sister and ultimately maybe even a better person.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Revenge is sweeter...

I was pretty sure that I was never going to forgive ABC after they cancelled "Brothers and Sisters" one of my favorite family dramas last spring all the while allowing "Grey's Anatomy" to continue on as they recycled the same tired will-they won't-they story lines over and over again (yes I still watch it anyway...see my blog post on "The Office" for further understanding of my contradictions).  However, our relationship has totally been repaired because they have brought me one of my new favorite shows of the fall, "Revenge". 

So even though Meredith and Derek are still in turmoil over at Seattle Grace, ABC is really delivering with this new drama featuring Emily VanCamp as Amanda Clarke, a daughter back with a new identity set on avenging the unfair conviction and ultimate death of her father.  

Amanda Clarke now goes by the name Emily Thorne to avoid any suspicion from the seemingly endless group of people she is targeting for being responsible for unfairly putting her innocent father in prison.  The first episode begins with Emily's engagement party as she is set to marry the son of one of those very targets. We immediately go back to five months earlier and it seems like this season could culminate with those first few, very intense, minutes of the pilot episode. 

This show is flawless. It has it all, strong acting, strong writing, beautiful set design and a fresh take on the idea of revenge...sometimes it just might be justified.

VanCamp, who I have loved since her days on "Everwood" (check it out on Netflix if you haven't seen it) and my beloved fore mentioned "Brothers and Sisters" has a way of making you root for her, even as she ruins lives and wrecks that's talent. She is the perfect balance of vulnerability and strength and watching her take down both men and women of power and wealth simply with her brains, tenacity and a little help from her pretty large inheritance, is extremely enjoyable.

Also perfectly cast is Madeleine Stowe as Victoria Grayson, the Queen of the Hampton's who was deeply involved with the situation with Amanda's father. Seeing VanCamp and Stowe in scenes together, the passive aggressiveness and tension is palpable and for some reason it really reminds me of 80's dramas like Dynasty...but in a good way. Fortunately though, I don't think we will see any swimming pool cat fights on Revenge, these women are much too smart for that. I'm loving watching them in scenes together and I can't wait to see how this progresses as Emily gets more and more involved with Victoria's family.

And, if there are any other "Gossip Girl" addicts out there (what? It's a guilty pleasure, try it, you might like it), wondering where brother Van Der Woodsen has disappeared to, he's been spotted in the Hampton's. 

Watch this show. All of the previous episodes are available now on so there really is no excuse, well I guess unless you don't have internet...but then how would you be reading this blog? 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Girls, Girls, Girls...

I have to admit that this is the best pilot season I have seen in a long time, usually one or two new shows will make it to a season pass but this year even the CW made it into regular rotation on my tivo. I already shared my witty remarks on my new favorite sitcom, "Up All Night" which is still going strong as it heads into it's fourth episode, so in another tivo or forgo entry, I'm tackling two more new sitcoms!

First up, "Two Broke Girls". Since the show was created by Michael Patrick King who also executive produced and wrote one of the greatest female ensemble shows...well, ever, "Sex and the City" (Let's all try to forgive him for "Sex and the City 2") and Whitney Cummings, frequent "Chelsea Lately" contributor and also creator of perhaps the worst sitcom pilot of this year, "Whitney" the show had a 50/50 chance of being watchable.

The pilot, starring Kat Dennings as Max, a tough talking, poor girl living in Brooklyn and working two jobs as a waitress and a nanny and Beth Behrs as Caroline, a fallen from grace socialite who finds herself broke after her father is caught participating in a Ponzi scheme, wasn't awful. The jokes were funny, some even pushing the envelope for an 8:30 p.m. time slot, and Dennings who I have loved since she played Norah in "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" has enough talent to make you forget (for a little while) about how cliche the rich girl/poor girl relationship really is. In typical odd couple fashion, the two can't stand each other at first but 30 minutes later they are fast friends, talking about opening their own cupcake business and going to Caroline's house in Manhattan to pick up her only possession, a horse. They then ride the horse back to Brooklyn and keep it in the backyard of their apartment building...which begs the question, can you jump the shark in the first episode?  

The second episode resorted to jokes about poop, and it only got worse from there. The envelope pushing turned into cheap sex jokes that resulted in over the top amounts of laughter from the studio audience but only made me want to change the channel. Overall, "2 Broke Girls" isn't the worst thing you could watch this fall, but it's definitely not the best, so it's getting a forgo from me. It's mediocre at best but if you need something to pass the time, it won't kill you.

Next up, Fox's "New Girl", which is so far my second favorite sitcom of this season. Whoever thought Zooey Deschanel should play a giant nerd, fresh from a breakup and living with three guys she met on the internet, is a GENIUS.  Deschanel plays Jess so perfectly with an equal balance of awkwardness and lovability (yah, sometimes I make up words) that her performance is reminiscent of one of the greatest female nerds of all time, Liz Lemon. 

The pilot focused on Jess moving in with her new three male roommates who try to get her back into the dating world. When she gets stood up the guys rise to the occasion and by the end of the episode, they are in the middle of a restaurant singing Jess' comfort song "I've had the time of my life" to cheer her up. I think I need to spend some more time on Craig's List... There is a really strong chemistry between the cast and even though one of the roommates was recast by the second episode because Damon Wayan's Jr. is busy working over at "Happy Endings" (blog post coming on that soon) the show still works. 
Season pass "New Girl" and I don't think you will be disappointed, and even if you hate the show, the theme song alone is worth watching!