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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.

nikitas

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!

vw-on-dp

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.

Another Opening, Another Show

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Five years ago, in one new pilot season, the TV gods gave unto us Lost, House, Desperate Housewives, Veronica Mars and Deadwood. It was a good year. There hasn’t been a year like it since.

In fact, the most recent couple of TV years have been especially terrible, thanks to the writers’ strike. There have been very few good shows, and even fewer renewals. Chuck, Gossip Girl and The Big Bang Theory are some of the only survivors from 07-08, which is good news for underperforming shows from the 08-09 season, like Castle, Dollhouse and Better Off Ted. The closest things to bona fide hits this past season were The Mentalist and Fringe. Nothing truly popped, and studio execs are desparate for success.

So what looks good? Here are my picks of the shows I’m looking forward to in the coming season - assuming they get a season order.

glee

Glee (Fox)

Nip/Tuck’s Ryan Kelly goes back to high school (he was responsible for the underrated Popular, which gave the world Christopher Gorham, Leslie Bibb and Sara Rue) with a show about a school choir. It looks like it’ll be all the usual jocks/geeks/cheerleaders stuff - a well-tapped mine that still sometimes turns up gold - but with added musical numbers, and a regular role for the always excellent Jane Lynch. I suspect it’ll be the most fun thing on TV this year. We’ll get a sneak peek tomorrow, when they preview the pilot after the American Idol final.

Tremé/Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

If the HBO name is no longer enough to get you excited about the show, these two have some other names that may work for you. Tremé, about musicians in post-Katrina New Orleans, is the new show from The Wire’s David Simon. The neighbourhood of Tremé, also called Storyville, is next to the French Quarter, and it’s the birthplace of jazz. I love jazz and I love New Orleans, so this intrigues me more than The Wire ever did.

Boardwalk Empire is the work of Martin Scorsese, and it’s a show about Atlantic City gangsters in the 1920s - ‘Once Upon A Time in The Sopranos’. With a cast that includes Steve Buscemi, Kelly McDonald and Michael Pitt, it promises some heavyweight dinner theatre - but the pilot may not get made until Scorsese is free to direct, so this could get bumped to another year.

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Eastwick (ABC)

The Witches of Eastwick has already inspired a movie, a musical and a sequel novel. Now it’s a TV show, with Rebecca Romijn as one of the three suburban witches, and Paul Gross as Darryl Van Horne, aka the devil. Casting the former Due South mountie in such a role strikes me as odd, but he is eerily ageless and rather irresistible, so it could be a good fit, and it will be nice to see him back on TV. The movie’s Veronica Cartwright, best known for vomiting cherry stones, also has a role in the show.

Masterwork (Fox)

As I mentioned this past weekend, Former Friday Night Lights star Scott Porter is my choice to play Captain America in the movie - but he may be too busy if his new show does well. Porter plays a globetrotting FBI agent tracking down art thieves. Hijinx ensue. Who doesn’t love hijinx? It sounds expensive, so it may need to do incredibly well in order to succeed - and, frankly, nothing does incredibly well anymore - a fact that seems to have been lost on the people who decide which shows to cancel or renew. Ratings ain’t what they used to be.

Flash Forward (ABC)

I am looking forward to this, but I’m also slightly dreading its likely inevitable phenomenon status. It’s another JJ Abrams show, and with Lost bowing out this coming season, ABC is lining this up as a replacement. The concept is that the whole world suffers a blackout (leading to death and destruction, yay) and everyone sees a flash of their future five months hence. You can be sure that these flash-forwards will set up lots of intriguing ‘how do I get to there from here’ mysteries. Stars include John Cho and Joseph Fiennes. ABC also has a remake of the lizard alien show V in the works, starring The 4400’s Joel Gretsch and Firefly’s Morena Baccarin.

Those are the shows I have high hopes for. There are also a few I’m wary of, so consider this fair warning:

Lost & Found (NBC)

A gritty cop drama from the Dick Wolf stable, about a young maverick LAPD detective who teams up with a grizzled older partner to work cold cases. It could hardly be more formulaic, but it does boast Katee Sackhoff and Brian Cox as the leads, so that gives it some small hope of being interesting.

vampirediaries

Vampire Diaries (CW)

I doubt your committment to sparkle vampires. The CW is cashing in on the Twilight thing with this adaptation of another young adult novel series about high school bloodsuckers. You shoulda wrote one of those! You’d be rich now! This one stars Ian Somerhalder as, I don’t know, ‘Jedward Scullen’, probably.

Eva Adams (Fox)

A sexist sports agent finds himself trapped in the body of a beautiful young woman. If it gets made (and I don’t think it will), it will surely be diabolical, but it does raise one interesting question; how would they handle the love interest? Is the male-to-female lead character going to get it on with boys (gay!) or girls (also gay!)? Like Ugly Betty, this is an adaptation of a South American telenovela.

Human Target (Fox)

This is based on the DC comic about a detective who impersonates his clients in order to protect them. The premise has a little in common with Dollhouse, but without all the rape. However, word has it that the show has ditched the comics’ impersonation angle. If so, it’s ditched the ‘human target’ premise that made this show intriguing (and, uh, gave it its name). Then again, if you want an actor who can exhibit range, craggy faced Mark Valley seems about as wise a choice as, say, Eliza Dushku.

Legally Mad (NBC)

This one didn’t get picked up, so we already know we’re never going to see it, and that’s a reason to be cheerful. This was going to be yet another tedious ‘wacky lawyer’ show from David E Kelley, who gave us Ally McBeal and Boston Legal: Ally McBeal For Boys. This one starred squeaky-voiced Kristen Chenoweth and squeaky-voiced Loretta Divine, so it would only have been audible to dogs. To cap it all, it was called Legally Mad, for God’s sake. We dodged  a bullet there, folks.