Wednesday, September 30, 2009

First Impressions of the Fall Season, Ctd

Let's continue our look at the new fall TV season. Part One is here.

*Cougar Town. This is the new Courtney Cox sit-com about a 40-something divorced mother of a teenager looking to get back into the game of Love. Yes, in the pilot episode she went after a younger guy, thereby rendering the show's title ridiculously on the nose (the nickname for the local high school's sports teams is the Cougars, the "real" reason for the show's title). And yes, there was a lot of young guy watching for Cox and her friends, played by Christa Miller and Busy Philipps. This was mildly funny, and there was some overall funny dialogue. But I think there isn't much to explore here. Do I really want to watch Cox bound from guy to guy (young and otherwise) each episode? And will she do it at the quite frenetic pace she was moving in the pilot? I mean that literally: it seemed like she was on speed. Her movement, her speech, everything was like it was in fast forward. Like they were really trying to keep out attention. Anyway, this all seems for not, because the show introduced us to her 40-something, hot, divorced male neighbor, whom, of course, she spars with and "hates" because he's bedding 20-something girls. We all know she's going to end up with him in the end, so to remain interested, the humor has to be really great and we need to be distracted by the supporting players (like on The Office, where they have effectively played out the inevitable Jim & Pam relationship to a T). I'm giving the show one more try tonight, and if I feel the same way as after the pilot, it's good night Irene.

Pluses: Courtney Cox; Christa Miller
Minuses: Frenetic pace; Trying too hard for laughs; Predictable plot
Grade: C

*SNL Weekend Update Thursday: For four weeks, Saturday Night Live is airing live, half-hour Weekend Update specials, as they did during the presidential election season. I always find Weekend Update to be the best part of the regular Saturday edition of the show, I was intrigued when NBC announced plans for this special edition. Moreover, Amy Poehler returns to the WU desk for at least the first two episodes to promote her show Parks & Recreation, joining regular host, and SNL head writer, Seth Meyers. Besides the actual WU news, the show begins with a cold open skit, both of which have been political in theme (SNL's bread and butter). Personally, I have found both episodes to be very funny. In a normal SNL episode, they have to fill 90 minutes with sketches that end of being not very funny. With only 22 minutes (and only one sketch), so far, the show has been clicking on all cylinders. Seth and Amy have great chemistry, and the writing is sharp. The show is only a place-holder until 30 Rock returns in October, but I kind of wish it would stick around.

Pluses: Funny writing; Seth Meyers; Amy Poehler
Minuses: Skits can run a liiiiiiiittle long
Grade: A-

*Community: This show is the latest entry into NBC's Must-See-TV Thursday comedy lineup. And it doesn't disappoint. Joel McHale (from E!'s The Soup) plays a lawyer whose license is taken away due to the state bar discovering his dodgy education. He is forced to go to community college to get an appropriate degree so he can have his law license back. There he meets a number of other misfit students, including a ladies' man Chevy Chase, and, of course, the hot blonde. The writing has been really funny so far, and Chase is doing his best work in years, nay, decades. And here's the thing, as opposed to my problem with Cougar Town, I honestly have no idea if McHale will end up with the blonde or not. I mean, yeah, he probably will, but so far the writers have been balancing the "will they or won't they" dynamic really well. The supporting players, while a bit stereotypical (the sassy African-American woman, the jock, the hyper alpha-girl), they have been given much more interesting characteristics than their stereotypes. Plus, they have some really great dialogue being pulled off by really funny unknown actors. Packaged with The Office and 30 Rock, NBC could actually have a hit on its hands. Well, at least until it moves to the 8pm slot (currently on at 9:30) and faces Survivor and Flash Forward. Overall though, this is probably my favorite new show of the year, at least so far.

Pluses: Joel McHale; Great writing; Funny premise
Minuses: Soon-to-be time slot
Grade: A

*Flash Forward: As is quite evident, I am a big fan of the show Lost. As we Lostophiles know, Lost will be concluding next May. Therefore, we must search for a replacement show that we can watch to satisfy our mystery-seeking, sci-fi-theorizing needs. In steps Flash Forward. This show is about what happens when all of humanity blacks out for two minutes and seventeen seconds at the same time, and everyone sees a vision of the future six months hence. Some see positive things (a reunion with a lost daughter, a pregnancy), some see negative things (infidelity, a return to alcoholism), and even a few see nothing (is the person dead? In a coma?). The action is led by an FBI agent played by Joseph Fiennes. He is married to a surgeon played by Sonya Walger (Lost fans will remember her as Desmond's love, Penny), is partnered with John Cho (Harold and Kumar, Star Trek), and is friends with Brian F. O'Byrne (well-known on Broadway for Doubt). As the world is in chaos after the blackout (what happens if 800 airplanes in the air all have their pilots black out at the same time?), Fiennes leads the FBI to figure out what is behind the flash forwards, while they all try to come to grips with what their futures mean. Can they change the future? Are they bound by it? Do they even want to change it? The pacing of the show felt right on, and definitely has a Lost feel to it (main male character waking up and not knowing what happened after a crash), even including a nice easter egg of an Oceanic billboard. There are obviously a lot of intriguing mysteries (why did the black out happen? Who is behind it? What do the flashes mean?), and the characters seem pretty decent. The effects could use some brushing up, and I kind of wonder if Fiennes is up to the rest of the cast acting-wise. I know that seems like a ridiculous comment after seeing his film work, but he seemed a bit lacking, like he wasn't comfortable with his American accent yet. I'm sure this will get better. Anyway, ABC hooked me with this show. I totally dug it, and see it, so far, as a worthy replacement for Lost. So much so, that I think I will give Flash Forward a similar treatment by posting my thoughts on each episode a couple days after it airs. If anything, it will make sure I come back and post every couple days.

Pluses: Actors; Script; Mysteries
Minuses: Effects; Joseph Fiennes, maybe?
Grade: A-

OK, that's the new stuff I've seen so far. I will post again in the next couple days with my thoughts on returning shows I've been watching. Again, if you have anything to contribute, or something you want me to check out, please leave it in the comments, or email me through the "complete profile" link on the top right of the page. Until my next post,


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