A Geek and his PVR

Fighting an uphill battle against my PVRs diminishing freespace

Mike’s Fall TV New Series Reviews (Repost from personal ‘blog)

For those not able to watch all 18 hours of primetime television that are on every night, I’m doing a public service, taking the bullet and watching as much as I can and letting you guys know what’s good and what’s crap. Some things I decided were crap and haven’t even bothered with, but what I’ve watched so far of new series, I’ll give you the scoop.

FOX

Reunion
(Thursday at 9 after The OC)

Reunion is about six close friends and their stories from 20 years in the past when they graduated high school up to the present where one of them is murdered and one of the others did it. Each episode is supposed to be a year, so it starts back in 1986 with a party. I basically got bored and annoyed by the predictable plot after 10 minutes and turned to something else.

C-

Kitchen Confidential
(Monday at 8:30 after Arrested Development which you should be watching anyways)

Jack Bourdain (Bradley Cooper; Will on Alias) was a hotshot chef who let women, drugs and booze ruin his career. We catch up with him when he’s working at an Olive-Garden-type restaurant. He then gets a call from the owner of an upscale restaurant that recently fired the head chef. He takes the job and has to assemble a stereotypically motley crew of assistants. There’s the Seafood Specialist (John Cho; Harold of Harold and Kumar), the Pastry Genius (Nicholas Brendon; Xander from BtVS), the wild Sous Chef (Owain Yeoman) and the incompetent newbie (John F. Daley of Freaks and Geeks). Then there’s the front of house staff, the girl that put the ho’ in hostess (Jaime King), and the house manager (Bonnie Somerville; lawyer Rachel from The OC). Despite the tension and disorder of the opening night, the crew manage to get a good review of the restaurant and it seems that Jack is back on his way up, at least as far as his career is concerned. The same cannot be said for his person life, as his reputation precedes him and causes many comic misunderstandings. That’s not to say the show is slapstick or stupid. Actually it’s well written, and very genuinely funny. The ensemble cast all fulfills their roles well, and Jack is very likable and sympathetic. I really enjoyed it and was almost immediately thinking that it was a really great show, as opposed to having to warm up to it.
Highly recommended.

A

Head Cases
(Wednesday at 9:00)

Jason Payne (Chris O’Donnell) is a high-priced lawyer, who ignores his family and when he gets kicked out of his house, the stress of his job and the pressures of family finally get to him and he has a breakdown, one where the TV talks to him. (My TV talks to me, but I don’t usually answer back) After spending 2 months in a “wellness center? he is declared ready to reenter society, but his doc makes him have a buddy, kind of like a sponsor in AA. Unfortunately his buddy Shultz is also a lawyer, and one with a “small anger management? problem (described as Explosive Disorder). Shultz also is the stereotypical bottom feeder type of lawyer whose typical clientele consist of prostitutes and anyone else that nobody would defend. Jason loses his job at the high-power firm, is still not able to be back with his family, and ends up having to work with Shultz. They help each other with their cases, in typical buddy-comedy fashion. Adam Goldberg keeps it just shy of annoying, and there is enough chemistry between him and Chris O’Donnell to make it interesting. I’m going to keep watching, but hopefully this doesn’t turn into an Ally-McBeal-parade of goofy clients.

B-

Bones
(Tuesday at 8:00)

Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel) is a forensic anthropologist and not a people person. Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz of Angel) is an FBI agent and detractor of science. See, comedy gold of the “Odd Couple” variety. Grudgingly Brennan (a.k.a the titularily nicknamed “Bones”) works with Booth to solve crimes when ever they find bodies that need explaining. To help discover the identities of victims Bones and her (once again) motley crew of scientists and computer geniuses use “sophisticated” computerized scanners and other science-y stuff to recreate in a C.S.I.-like holographic chamber the victims and methods of their demises. I seriously think the writers just wrote “science stuff” in the script wherever they needed explanations and let researchers fill it in. There was even a montage of Bones hard at work, reassembling the skull of a victim. ‘Cause science is hard. In the end, both Bones and Booth find that they need each others strengths to solve cases. The first episode was a bit cheesy, and the dialogue is kind of lame at times (no need to be so self-referential as to refer to yourselves as “Mulder and Scully”) but I think the show can and should improve.

B

NBC

My Name Is Earl
(Tuesday at 9:00 before The Office)

My Name Is Earl stars Jason Lee (Mallrats, Chasing Amy) as Earl, a white-trash loser with an unfaithful wife (Jaime Pressley), and a drunk of a brother (Ethan Suplee; Mallrats). Earl wins a $100,000 Lotto scratch-off and in the process of celebrating gets hit by a car. In a morphine-induced haze at the hospital, he takes note of Carson Daly talking about Karma and has an epiphany of sorts. This you might have all gotten from the promos, but what doesn’t come through is how likable a loser Earl is. As awful a person as he is, you get the feeling he means well. So, Earl begins to make up for all the bad things he’s done, and we’re along for the ride. The characters are quirky, but believable, the dialogue is witty and the voiceover never gets in the way or annoying. I, of course, have liked Jason Lee since Mallrats, but here he seems to have room to really stretch out and just go for it. Jaime Pressley is great as the stereotypical W-T gum-snapping, hot-pant-wearing, super-big-haired, cheating, ex-wife. Very funny.
Recommended.

A

Surface
(Monday at 8:00)

This is show is many things. Which things I’m not sure. It’s supposed to be a family oriented alien invasion show. The pilot leads off with middle/high school age kids drinking and wakeboarding at night in Dawson’s Creek… I mean Wilmington, N.C. Actually it doesn’t really matter where they are, just that one kid, sees something in the water he can’t explain. Then there’s a submarine in the Antarctic that is missing it’s crew, and a random Russian Scientist is there to inspect the mysteriously empty vessel for the U.S. Navy. The location then changes again to SoCal where Marine Biologist lady (Lake Bell… yes, that’s her name) is going to be taking a submersible deep to study life around geothermal vents in the ocean floor. She ends up being jostled by a big sea creature rising out of a very deep hole, and no one believes she saw something down there. In the fourth of the increasing implausible and confusing plot threads, a Louisiana scuba diver and his brother are out spear-fishing near an oil platform when his brother shoots another of these sea creatures and is dragged bottomward to his death. Eventually we get back to the Dawson’s River kids, who sneak out late at night and find in the water, what we assume to be either eggs or immature versions of the sea creatures. The one kid ends up putting it his parents aquarium where it eats all the fish and breaks out and hides. I guess this kid is going to befriend it. Anyway, we wind up the show with evidence that these sea creatures are huge and are recent additions to the planet. All in all, it’s entertaining but forgettable, and suffers from technical and societal inconsistencies. One of the most grating things to me was when MB lady was in the submersible, she refers to the seeing something on “RADAR? which is incorrect, underwater you use “SONAR?. That and the multiple, confusing plot threads make the show less enjoyable. I’ll probably watch what episodes I have recorded already, but I may delete them if I need the room.

C+

ABC

Invasion
(Wednesday at 10:00 after Lost)

Here’s how it breaks down. There’s a hurricane coming and everyone is getting ready for it, including Blah (Russell), a park ranger in the Everglades, his kids, Rose and Blah-Jr.(Jesse). Blah’s new wife, Larkin (huh?) is a TV reporter and also pregnant. Her brother, Dave (Tyler Labine) is a conspiracy theorist, and irresponsible. Blah’s ex-wife, Mariel is a control-freak doctor and married to the town’s sheriff, Sheriff (Tom) Underlay (William Fichtner; Go, Black Hawk Down). Sheriff Tom, also has a daughter, Kira. This hurricane wreaks havoc in the town, and somehow Mariel ends up lost and is found naked in the swamp, alive but somehow different. Sheriff Tom puts the town under quarantine for no particular reason. Rose, who ran off to look for the McGuffin, I mean, her cat, saw lights in the sky land in the water when the hurricane was happening all around her and she tells this to Dave, who has to investigate as all conspiracy nuts must. He finds something mysterious, and things just get more mysterious. Unfortunately, these must be the dumbest aliens ever, as even a 5-year-old, Rose, can tell that something’s amiss. Good thing for the aliens that the townspeople are even dumber than a 5-year-old. It’s all very Pod-people-y. I don’t think I’ll watch it regularly.

D

Commander in Chief
(Tuesday at 9:00)

Mackenzie Allen (Geena Davis; Beetlejuice) is the Vice-President of the USA, an independent, and a woman. This becomes a problem when the Republican President has a stroke and later dies. She is asked to resign by both the President before he dies and by the Speaker of the House, Nathan Templeton (Donald Sutherland; Animal House) who would then step in as President. Templeton believes that Mac was only given the running mate slot as a campaign gimmick to increase support from women voters, and that her policies would not concur with the former president’s. She is about to hand in her resignation when she get a speech from Templeton telling her that it’s best that she resign because women just wouldn’t be able to do the job. This basically convinces her to take over as President, and sets up the major conflict between her and Templeton.
It seems that this will be underlying plot, with Templeton trying to undermine her authority and prove that she is not capable of handling the responsibility and power that comes with being President. There are also other smaller conflicts with her children and husband. I thought the show was pretty good, though heavy-handed at times with it’s agenda. Geena Davis is as usual, good, and Donald Sutherland plays the duplicitous Templeton with appropriate evilness. I wasn’t immediately struck with a sense of “this is really good” but it did draw me in and make me want to continue watching. It has a lot of room to explore much of the same territory as The West Wing, but with a different perspective. I like it.

A-
WB

Supernatural
(Tuesday at 9:00 after Gilmore Girls)

Supernatural is the story of two brothers, 1* (Jensen Ackles; Smallville) and 2** (Jared Padalecki; Gilmore Girls), trying to track down their father who’s disappeared. Their father’s pursuit has been the “demon? that killed their mother when they were boys, and they have often joined him on these quests, fighting other spirits and monsters over the years. However, this time he’s gone alone and hasn’t checked in for a while, and 1 needs help. 2 gave up chasing ghosts to live a normal life, is about to go to law school, and lives with a serious girlfriend. 1 convinces 2 to join him for just this one time, and after that 2 can get back in time for his law school interview. They investigate the last case their father was working on, solving it’s mystery while tangling with the local law enforcement and nearly getting killed like 3 times. They also find a clue their father has left, coordinates (“an old Marine trick?), and set back to fulfill the promise of 2’s impending interview. When 2 gets home, he can not find serious girlfriend, and to his horror, finds she has been killed by the same demon that killed his mother. This steels his resolve to find his father and help him defeat the demon.

I really didn’t want to like this show, I thought it was going to be really gimmicky and cheesy, but instead, it was genuinely scary, and had a pretty decent plot. The acting is good by WB standards, and the effects are really cool.

B+

Twins
(Friday at 8:30 after What I Like About You)
Mitchee (Sara Gilbert;Roseanne) and Farrah (Molly Stanton) are “twins? who are taking over as Co-Presidents the company their parents, Cousin Larry, er, Alan (Mark Linn-Baker; Perfect Strangers) and Lee (Melanie Griffith) founded. Their parents are retiring, but that doesn’t mean they can’t interfere. And even thought they’re twins, the girls couldn’t be more different, Farrah, blond, pretty and shallow; Mitchee, smart and “not-pretty?. Haha! Not. It’s just not that funny, I like Sara Gilbert, but neither her nor Cousin Larry can save the show from the lame plot, unfunny jokes, and generally sloppy, lazy and just bad writing.

D+ (plus for Sara Gilbert)

Just Legal
(Monday at 9:00 after The Show That Shall Not Be Named Because On It If You Have Premarital Sex You Will Get Pregnant)

David “Skip? Ross (Jay Baruchel; Undeclared) is a prodigy who at 18 has just graduated law school and passed the bar. He cannot find a job at any law firms because he is so young. Drunky McDrunkard aka Grant Cooper (Don Johnson; Miami Vice, Nash Bridges) is a former hot-shot defense attorney who now works as a public defender and also works insurance cases that the “friendly? local police force passes along to him. He is cynical and jaded. Skip is naïve and idealistic. Drunky lets Skip do some work with him, and even lets him try a case in court, but only because the judge forced him to bring along someone else. Meanwhile, the defendant says she’s not guilty, and Skip enters this plea, against the wishes of Drunky, forcing them to investigate the case and find evidence to prove her innocence. There’s a lot of blah-blah, but in the end, the girl gets acquitted and Drunky realizes the error of his ways and rediscovers his idealism. Skip will continue to work with Grant and we’re left with Grant putting on his sunglasses on the boardwalk outside their hip, beachfront office in a shot reminiscent of Nash Bridges. Generally the show is pretty decent, I like Jay Baruchel, the writing is good, but I think there’s only so far they can take the 2-dimensional-ness of the characters before it gets stale. I’m going to keep watching, and hopefully it develops into something even better.

B-

*Haven’t bothered yet to look up the character’s name
**Ditto above, plus it’s easier to write. And funnier.

Related
(Wednesday at 9:00)

4 sisters living in New York. A lawyer, a therapist, an event planner and a student. A father about to remarry. One of them is pregnant, one is getting kicked out of her sublet, one has just broken up, and one has changed majors from pre-med to experimental theater. These are sisters with issues. It’s ok, nothing ground breaking or original, family drama at it’s normalest. Related is a step up from the schmaltyness of Seventh Heaven plus the actors and actresses can actually emote with some modicum of skill. I may get bored after a while, but it’s a worthy diversion if you have nothing else to watch.

C+
UPN

Everybody Hates Chris
(Thurdsay at 8:00)

Everybody Hates Chris is the chronicle of Chris Rock’s middle school days. Chris has been transferred to an all-White school, and is socially awkward besides the whole race issue. There’s trouble with the school bully, mis-perceptions about his athletic abilities and lots of other things that keep him down. It’s a really well done show, very funny, and the actor that plays Chris is excellent. Highly recommended.

A
 

CBS

How I Met Your Mother
(Monday at 8:30)

How I Met Your Mother is a story told through flashback of Ted (Josh Radnor) and how he met his wife. Ted is an architect who lives with his newly-engaged friend Marshall (Jason Segel; Freaks and Geeks) and Marshall’s fiancée, Lily (Alyson Hannigan; BtVS). He is spurred to find a mate by the engagement and receives sometimes unwanted dating help from Barney (Neil Patrick Harris; Doogie Houser, MD), although it is because of Barney’s prodding that he meets Robin (Cobie Smulders; Veritas). Ted instantly falls for her, but she is reluctant to return his affections because of her own insecurities.
So far, the show has been pretty funny, and especially, Barney gets the most outrageous lines. Robin is the girl you’d fall in love with at first sight, and Ted is your basic “Ross?-type. I like Alyson Hannigan (*tiny* BtVS obsession), but both her and Jason Segel are a bit underutilized, although I’m sure their characters can be fleshed out a bit more as the series goes on.

B+

Out of Practice
(Monday at 9:30)

Ben (Christopher Gorham; Popular) is a marriage counselor, who’s own marriage has just imploded, and he has to deal with his meddling mother (doctor [Stockard Channing]), wacky father (doctor [Henry Winkler]), pompous brother (plastic surgeon [Ty Burrell]) and a lesbian sister (ER doctor [Paula Marshall]). It’s your basic family sitcom, and it’s good. Henry Winkler is great, and I’m not sure if she’s just a recurring character or what, but look for Jennifer Tilly as his secretary/girlfriend. I’ve enjoyed the 2 episodes I’ve seen so far.

A-

Threshold
(Friday at 9:00 before NUMB3RS)

Dr. Molly Anne Caffrey (Carla Gugino; Spy Kids, Karen Sisco) specializes in creating plans for “worst-case scenarios.? Unfortunately for her, one of her scenarios has become reality, one involving possible alien first-contact. She’s called in to investigate, pulling together a team of a biologist (Brent Spiner; ST:NG), a “rocket scientist? (Robert Patrick Benedict; Felicity) and a linguist (Peter Dinklage; “an angry elf?: Elf). She also has crew of black ops military personnel to assist with “problems.? They head out to a ship that was in the area that the alien spacecraft landed and find that almost all of the crew is either missing or dead. There, they discover that there are aliens, and that they’re almost certainly hostile. Also the transmissions from the spacecraft were somehow able to mutate the DNA of any life in the area. It was even able to affect Dr. Caffrey, the aero-engineer and the head of the security team who watched a videotape of the spacecraft. It also seems that everyone affected by the spacecraft are now linked somehow. Creepy. I thought the show was pretty creepy, it had some humor (especially from the “civilians? in the team), and has a compelling mystery. It’s unfortunate it’s in a Friday night “death slot? because it had some excellent X-Files-style sci-fi goodness.
Recommended (for those that mourn the good-ole days of the X-Files)

A

[Soapbox]: I find it unfortunate that even though some sci-fi shows have arguably better writing, acting and direction than “regular” TV they tend to be overlooked because they have the sci-fi element. True, a lot of sci-fi TV tends to be crap, but so does a lot of regular TV. Do we really need 64535342 C.S.I.s and 45242523 Law & Orders? [/Soapbox]

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