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The Post-Game Show » 2010 » September

Archive for September, 2010

Watch More TeeVee More!

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Pause the Tivo! It’s time for part two of my guide to the shows to watch (and maybe a couple to avoid) this new TV season.

Undercovers (NBC, Wednesday 8pm)

This is a new JJ Abrams joint, which is not quite the guarantee of success that a lot of folks think it is. He has more hits than misses - Felicity, Alias and Fringe have all found audiences, and Lost is obviously a phenomenon - but he does have misses. What About Brian lasted 26 episodes. Six Degrees lasted 13.

Undercovers is a show about two spies who are also husband and wife, hence the egregious title - they’re undercover agents and they’re under covers, do you see? They’re shagging! And the twist is that they work together, rather than trying to kill each other, so it’s totally not Mr & Mrs Smith. Assuming the show is any good, I hope it will add one more to Abrams’ hits column - but I have some concerns that it won’t.

undercovers

You see, Undercovers is attempting to do something bold and subversive that you simply don’t see on primetime. It’s trying to do a one-hour drama series with black people in the leads. This is a first for network television. More than 25 years after The Cosby Show first aired, a black man and a black woman sharing top billing in a drama is bold and new. Is America ready for it? Well, it bloody well should be, of course, but America has been known to let itself down before.

It’s worth noting that they chose two especially attractive people to play the leads, which might mitigate their possibly scary blackness. If redneck America is ever going to let a black man into their homes, it’s going to be a sexy black man who looks good to their daughters. Wait, that’s not right…

Hellcats (CW, Wednesday 9pm)

A show about cheerleaders is guaranteed light frothy fun, right? This show should do for dance what Glee did for singing - make it brainlessly chipper! Except, two episodes in, I’m of the opinion that the cheerleading routines in Glee are actually better than the cheerleading routines in Hellcats - and while Hellcats certainly isn’t heavy drama, it lacks Glee’s campy joie de vivre. The pilot had its charms; the second episode was a snooze. Let me say it again; this is a show about cheerleaders. It should never be a snooze.

Hellcats is also boringly heterosexual, which just makes no sense to me. It’s not like the show is strenuously trying to avoid clichés - the main characters are the anti-pep rebel and the preppy Christian. If you’re giving me cheerleaders, I expect gay cheerleaders. It’s almost as if Hellcats is trying to keep its tongue out of its cheek, which is surely its natural habitat. Cheerleaders.

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Nikita (CW, Thursday 9pm)

There have been many Nikitas. There was the 1990 Luc Besson movie. There was the 1993 US remake with Bridget Fonda (Point of No Return). There was the 1997 TV show La Femme Nikita, which always aired at awkward o’clock in the UK, probably on ITV. It was one of those shows for insomniacs, full of actors you’ve never seen anywhere else, and with that odd whiff of cheap desperation that usually marks a show out as Canadian. (Imagine my surprise when I learned that Highlander: The Series was not Canadian.)

This new show is the fourth Nikita (fifth if you count Khrushchev), and it’s still about a down-on-her-luck young woman who is trained as a government assassin, but in this series Nikita has gone rogue and means to bring her former handlers down. It’s a colourful premise, but the first episode proved pretty tedious in its execution. Sexy deadly lady ninjas! That’s almost as much of a no-brainer as cheerleaders!

Supernatural (CW, Friday 9pm)

This is the sixth of Supernatural’s five seasons, which in itself is a little eerie. This show was meant to die last year. Now it is undead!

I love Supernatural, but I actually wanted it to end last year. There was a five year plan. An arc. Despite mediocre ratings, the show actually got its five years and played out its full arc. It was going to be that rarest of things, a TV show that tells its whole story and then gets off the stage of its own accord. Now that’s not going to happen. Now the show is going to trot on for another year, maybe two, and get cancelled. Probably on a cliffhanger.

So, I’m braced for disappointment. But, on the other hand, we do get another season of hot boys fighting demons - and that’s a no-brainer concept that they actually followed through on. With a new showrunner in charge, and a fresh slate on the Apocalypse, this sixth - and probably final - season should offer up some surprises. Bring it on, zombie show.

Dexter (Showtime, Sunday 9pm)

If you didn’t watch last year’s fourth season of Dexter, you’re a damned fool. With Jon Lithgow as the Trinity Killer, the show achieved such a high that everyone involved was probably slightly dreading coming back for the fifth season. That was it. That was the peak. And now the show has to come back from that.

I’m actually looking forward to the new season, because although it can’t hope to match the last, it is starting from an enviably strong position. I’m confident that it will plateau, rather than crash. I don’t know what’s on the cards for the plot this year, but there’s a lot to deal with - seriously, if you haven’t watched season four, you have to do it now - and there’s an epic cast coming on board, including Julia Stiles, Shawn Hatosy, Chris Vance, Jonny Lee Miller and Maria Doyle Kennedy. Exciting!

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Desperate Housewives (ABC, Sunday 9pm)

This show is now in its… I’m going to say seventh season, which means it has gone through all kinds of peaks and troughs - a sterling first season, a weird sophomore slump (the Applewhites), an awkward attempt to settle into its own soap rhythms, and a moderate return to form in the last couple of years - hampered by some weird stunt nonsense. And I’ve stuck through it all these years, because… well, I’ve never really asked why. Maybe that’s why? That, and Bree Van De Kamp Hodge.

And now I get my reward, because this season there is a new housewife, and she’s played by Vanessa Williams, Mz Wilhelmina Slater herself. There has always been a Vanessa Williams-sized hole in this show, and now that Ugly Betty has finished, Williams’ arrival on Wisteria Lane feels like destiny. This cannot go wrong.

And then I remember the cheerleaders, and the ass-kicking ninja women, and how TV messes everything up. Please don’t mess this up for me, TV.

Watch More TeeVee!

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

TV is full of antioxidants and Omega-3 oils. That’s science. Experts say that you should consume at least five hours of television every day. It is a historical fact that people who died of plague, smallpox and scurvy had close to zero traces of TV in their systems, whereas 99% of Olympic athletes watch at least some TV as part of their training regimen and/or lives.

So we’re agreed that TV is good for you. Now that the new TV season is starting up in the US, it’s time to ask what shows you should be watching as part of an idiocy-controlled diet. And here I am to tell you! Specifically, I’ll tell you what I’ll be checking out this season  - and what I’ll be avoiding. After that, you’re on your own. I’m not your personal fitness instructor.

This post deals with Monday and Tuesday nights. I’ll be back for the rest later.

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90210 (CW, Monday 8pm)

Let’s start with a terrible idea; Watch 90210!

No, don’t watch 90210. Watch House, or Chuck, which are both on at the same time (not that anyone watches shows in their timeslot any more). You don’t have to watch 90210. I’ve never heard anyone say anything good about it.

I’ll be watching it, but only out of a sense of blogger obligation. A spoiler follows. That young man in the photo above is Trevor Donovan. As you have surely already worked out with your extraordinary deductive skills, he is a former Abercrombie & Fitch model and former daytime soap actor. If there is such a thing as ‘too blond’, he is the Joseph Goebbels propaganda poster boy for the concept. And this season, his character is coming out as gay.

This is new. They never make the All-American jock the gay guy. Yet this year we may see it happen on two shows (and I won’t tell you what the other one is). Whether it’s the pudgy guy, the artsy guy, or the flaming guy, the gay guy on TV is almost always the most ’sexually unthreatening’ guy on the show. That’s not to say that gay characters are never objects of lust - everyone on TV is sexy to someone - but it’s never the actual pin-up guy. I’ll be watching 90210 this year to see how they handle it. You don’t have to. I’ll probably let you know.

Hawaii Five-O (CBS, Monday 10pm)

This is the third time CBS has tried to make a star of Alex O’Loughlin, an actor with good abs and no charisma, and if they can’t make America love him with this heavily hyped remake of a well-known show, it’ll be time to put him out to pasture wherever Martin Henderson is now. The pilot was hugely expensive, so it might be worth checking out, but I don’t expect I’ll stick around. I slightly resent that they cast white guys in the two lead roles, and cast ethnic actors as the sidekicks (a Korean-American and a Korean-Canadian).

ian-anthony-dale

The Event (NBC, Monday 9pm)

The officially designated Lost replacement is being promoted in the most frustratingly nebulous way. “It’s a mystery show! We can’t tell you what it’s about! Watch it anyway!” It’s a technique that didn’t work for Flashforward, and I think there were other recent mystery shows that were so short-lived that I don’t even remember them. Lost didn’t open big because it was a mystery show - no-one knew it was a mystery show when they started watching it - it was a hit because it started with a spectacular plane crash, and because the set-up posed some specific, definable questions.

That said, Lost has left a gap in the schedule. I suspect audiences don’t want to watch two mystery shows in one week, and that’s why nothing else could survive alongside Lost, but The Event stands a better chance than most of finding an audience hungry for New Lost. It also boasts a strong cast including Laura Innes, Blair Underwood and Željko Ivanek, and eye candy in the form of dreaaaammy Ian Anthony Dale (above) and Jason Ritter, who dances a delicate line between ‘hunky’ and ‘eerily like his dead father John Ritter’.

Glee (Fox, Tuesday 8pm)

If you don’t know how you feel about Glee by now, there’s no hope for you. It’s back, and this time it’s Britney, bitch.

Raising Hope/Running Wilde (Fox, Tuesday 9pm)

What I’ve come to think of as the ‘Verbing Name’ Comedy Hour. The concept of Raising Hope can be ascertained from the title - it’s about a young man left raising a baby. It’s a cringe-inducing concept, but I saw a preview a few weeks ago and found it surprisingly funny and endearing. It’s from the same creator as My Name Is Earl, and it has the same wit and intelligence - and it has Martha Plimpton and Garrett Dillahunt.

The other Verbing Name show is from the creator of Arrested Development, and stars Will Arnett, so you don’t really need to know what it’s about. It’s probably hilarious.

goodwife

The Good Wife (CBS, Tuesday 10pm)

This returning show was a very pleasant surprise last year. Juliana Margulies? Chris Noth? Lawyers? Surely it’s a show for mothers to watch with a large glass of Chardonnay? And so it is, but I know I’m not the only thirtysomething male who happily uncorks the Chardonnay every Tuesday evening for this splendid show.

Although The Good Wife is another lawyer show, its emphasis on footwork rather than court cases helps it to stand out. But that’s just a sweetener; what really makes this show work is its ripped-from-the-headlines main story. Margulies plays the scorned wife of a scandalized state’s attorney, a character based on disgraced former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. That creates a great driving conflict for Margulies to sink her teeth into, making her the most compelling female character on TV right now - and she’s brilliant in the role. The cast also features some wonderfully subversive characters played to perfection by Christine Baranski, Alan Cumming and Archie Panjabi. It’s an exceptional ensemble, and I’m unashamedly excited to see this show return.

Excuse me, I need to buy more Chardonnay.

Mr Right: Conservatives Go Gay

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

An entertainingly graceless bitch-fight is playing out in a little corner of the American right that you probably don’t pay much attention to. It began when gay conservative group GOProud announced that Ann Coulter was headlining their ‘HomoCon‘ event. GOProud chair Christopher Barron boasted of the event, “The gay left has done their best to take all the fun out of politics, with their endless list of boycotts and protests. Homocon is going to be our annual effort to counter the ‘no fun police’ on the left.”

ann-coulter

Ann Coulter, you may remember, was what we had to rile against before Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck eclipsed her relevance. Sadly for Coulter, her involvement with this event led to her being dropped by another, WorldNetDaily’s Taking America Back National Conference. (How far back they plan to take America is not clear, as American history does not have a Middle Ages.) WorldNetDaily was aghast at Coulter’s participation in HomoCon, accusing her of “legitimizing” sodomy and same-sex marriage.

There is an exquisite irony in these conservatives boycotting Coulter for her involvement in an event that advertises itself as an alternative to left-wing boycotts and protests. GOProud is getting a first hand taste of the hate and intolerance that the left is fighting against when protestors like Dan Choi chain themselves to the White House fence - a protest that GOProud’s Barron sneered at.

Still, GOProud are consistent in their do-nothing attitude to gay rights. Earlier this year they held an event at the San Diego Manchester Grand Hyatt, owned by Proposition 8 supporter Doug Manchester, thus stepping across the picket line at an ongoing boycott of that hotel. GOProud believe in letting other people do the ‘no fun’ stuff like trying to advance their rights, while they get drunk lining the pockets of the bigot who wants to take their rights away.

The contretemps between GOProud and WorldNetDaily is noteworthy for a few other reasons. Coulter’s response to WorldNetDaily was to say that she “speak[s] to a lot of groups and do[es] not endorse them” - in other words, she’s not necessarily on GOProud’s side, but she will take their money. She also called out WorldNetDaily for their absurd birtherism - the site has been nicknamed WingNutDaily - which gives us an idea of how far out on the fringe these people are. Even on the right, only the nuttiest of nuts are ready to attack the conservative gays in this way.

The American  right’s views on homosexuality are shifting just as the American electorate’s views are shifting. Several high profile conservatives have come out in favour of gay marriage, including Dick Cheney, Laura Bush and Bill O’Reilly. Even freshly minted pseudo-televangelist Glenn Beck concedes that opposing gay marriage is not a fight worth having. One of the two lawyers that tore down Proposition 8 was George W Bush’s former solicitor general, Ted Olson, who brilliantly framed the conservative case for gay marriage. Even the judge who overturned Prop 8 was a conservative, nominated by Reagan and the elder Bush.

The arguments against gay marriage, gay rights, and even homosexuality in general, are grounded in religion and ignorance, not in politics. Gay rights fit perfectly with the small government/personal liberty philosophies of the right. This week Steve Schmidt, the former campaign manager for John McCain, became the latest conservative to argue in support of gay marriage, suggesting that marriage promotes social stability. In his view, gay marriage is a family value.

Then there’s former RNC chair Ken Mehlman, a loathsome hypocrite who helped devise the party’s anti-gay strategy while keeping his own homosexuality under wraps. He can never make amends for his atrocious behaviour, but he is now another high profile advocate for equality. Then again, Mehlman claims that gays should have voted Republican in support of the right’s anti-Jihadist stance, so there may be depths to his ignorance yet to be tapped.

None of these conservatives are running for public office, of course, so they can safely move to the left of Barack Obama on gay issues. We’re still waiting for a conservative heavyweight to face the electorate on a marriage equality platform. Even so, same-sex marriage might never again be the wedge issue that it was in the 2000 election. No wonder the wingnuts at WorldNetDaily are so upset.

While gay rights may ultimately fit the conservative narrative, it seems that even right-wingers can’t quite stop themselves thinking of civil rights as a left-wing issue. Look at the inadvertant revelation in their odious HomoCon flyer, in which they refer to Ann Coulter as “the right wing Judy Garland”. The implication is that Judy Garland belongs to the left. Garland was a lifelong Democrat, yes, but she was not a political figure; she was and is the definitive gay icon. Giving her up to the left is a tacit admission that gay culture and gay rights are firmly established as the province of the left. By invoking Ann Coulter as their icon, GOProud have knocked over their queen.