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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.

teddydonovan

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.

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.

eastwick

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.