What’s ON! The Fall TV Review 2016
It’s that time again. Fall TV premiere season is one of the exciting times for most people. It is a spotlight smorgasbord of Television creativity. I enjoy seeing what Hollywood writers come up with and present to me the viewer. Loving a good story and even better a great cinematic performance, I watch almost all the new shows and provide a programming guide from those who are yet undecided about who to give their time to. My reviews and analysis are solely based on my opinion, and do not reflect anything but facts of the shows production and my thoughts on its success. If you do not agree, RELAX, it’s just TV!
Designated Survivor is a riveting, surprising and educational television experience. History teachers and government club leaders all over are cheering at the creativity use of law and government. The details on how this could actually happen are just interesting enough to catch the attention of a house wife, while still being detailed enough to pass the history fact checkers. I see multiple story lines emerging, including but not limited to assassination attempts and adultery. The most impressive element in this show is the casting. The casting director should get some special recognition here because she pulled together a very diverse cast. Kudos to Liz Dean. Malik Yoba brings the wise calm head that all thrillers need while Tanner Buchanan is perfect to portray the young tortured millennial who just wants to live his life. This is important because the major fail point on politico shows is a connection with that 17-26 age group. Natascha McElhone brings a hauntingly dejected character to the show that is not quite readable, but I believe with creative scripting, the writers can spin that at their will creating plot points or new catalyst for the show. And finally Maggie Q. Most would say that the final appraisal should go to Keifer Sutherland, but I disagree. Sutherland is already a deserving star. I expect nothing but great performances and his star power is obvious. Maggie Q is one of the most under rated pilot queens in the business. Her lack of readable emotion ironically captures the most emotion and intrigue in the first 2 episodes. I am looking forward to seeing how they use her character and how they keep her integrated in the story line. Overall I think this is a winner for ABC. The gap of a politico action drama was a need that ABC needed to feel and Keifer Sutherland answered the call.
MacGyver premiered in September 1985 with a semi-young rugged action hero Angus MacGyver. The show had fast pace and centered around MacGyver’s (Richard Dean) ability to get out of tight spots with a paper clip, bottle of jelly, and a Swiss army knife. It was awesome, intriguing and an overall thrill to watch. The show that premiered this fall on CBS with the same title, is not the reboot that Henry Winkler promised. The new ‘MacGyver’; Lucas Till is an obvious attempt to draw in the youth of today, but it alienates the fans of the original hit show and the viewers that are bound to be home during the Friday night airing. The casting is just barely above a totally miss and the scripting is too backwards funny and does not fit the procedural action style the show intends to convey. During the dialogue about the mission we are getting flirty jokes and half-baked emotional flashbacks. The one positive that I can pull is the 4th wall communication about some of the stunts MacGyver pulls off. While some moms can see that as being dangerous to describe how to break through a metal plated door, I found that to be a pleasant reprieve from the team monologues and quirky banter. If it sounds like I am being hard it is not a mistake. The reboot of ‘MacGyver’ series was by far my most anticipated series this fall. I was a huge fan of the original and while I have been thoroughly surprised by some other CBS shows the year, this is a big miss. My only wish now is that some of the top writers and producers like Scott Gemmill and Lee David Zlotoff get off the train before it blows. This is a bomb that not even Richard Dean can disarm.
Pitch is a meaningful milestone in TV history, but not for the reasons people think. It is an overdue acknowledgement of the struggle woman face to be considered equal. While the show highlights this point over and over, it is not the success in the show. I had to refer to my notes to remind myself what I thought while watch the CBS premiere. Kylie Bunbury is unpolished and unfortunately not extremely impactful as Ginny Baker, but she is very believable as the girl who just wants to play baseball. I have seen a lot of positive inexperience from Bunbury. The creators and writers have driven home the point of how hard it is to be a woman working in a male dominated field. I fear focusing in on the same point episode after episode will lose some of the viewers. Pitch can be a hit, if the writers expand a bit on the plot and center in on Ginny Baker. Give her some depth and other purposes the show may become more interesting. The pilot lacked a lot of dialogue from her and I wanted to hear more. And while the end of the pilot definitely delivered on emotional pull, I feel like I missed a few doses of intensity in the first inning. Give her a relationship, given her a dirty past, give her a secret baby and then show how she works through all that and still pitches a no hitter. That would be a world class game to watch on a Thursday. The one big positive is that the competition for viewers is not too tough so Pitch is playing a game against their selves right now. Overall I have a very mixed opinion for this show, but I am persuaded to lien in on the swing and say Pitch has potential.
Grade Solid C
Lethal Weapon was not on most TV viewer’s must watch list. To be honest it was not even on my long list of shows to review. Despite the lack of big promotion, the show is being received well by most who have tuned in. I am not a big Wayans fan, so I was not thrilled to watch, but after the huge disappointment that was MacGyver over on CBS I went to Hulu looking for some action to believe in. The development of Martian Riggs in this fresh and funny series is probably the best highlight thus far. Roger Murtaugh, played by Damon Wayans, comes across as unintentionally funny in an old fussy grandfather way. And this is not a jab at the very apparent age gap between Murtaugh and Riggs as the writers in episode 2 focus in on this point several times. It is just to say, that when Wayans is trying to be serious and be a hero at the same time, it comes across as relatable to the pre AARP viewers and pretty funny. I loved the explosive opening of the pilot, which proved to me I would not be bored to death with premise setup and I like that there is balance between intense emotional scenes and fast pace crime solving. The procedural nature of the show and the almost perfect dynamics of Wayans and Clayne Crawford will give Lethal Weapon permanent and solid primetime success for FOX.
The Good Place is not so good. It is an unfortunate over commitment to an idea that we want to laugh at the afterlife. There is also a bit of idea overload. In the pilot at first you think the premise is Kristen Bell growing some moral compass to help her earn her spot in the Good Place, but half way through it changes. The focuses shift to Ted Danson’s character and his preoccupation with system flaws and his short comings. This shift happens to quickly and doesn’t give the viewer a chance to adjust or accept the entire concept of the show. Add in the bad joke timing and you have a comedy show failure to connect. Michael Schur is not a comedy dud himself. He has been a part of some comedy TV show greats like Parks and Recreation and the unmatched The Office; but The Good Place puts him and Kristen Bell in a bad seat. While admittedly not a Ted Danson fan, I recognize the star power and expected him to prop up the dialogue a lot better than he does in the pilot episode. The show feels like a bunch of joke set ups without the punch lines. Kristen Bell’s performance as a woman in need of some serious moral training is cute, but barely chuckle funny. The life mate Chidi (William Jackson Harper) is adorable, but also not funny. Everyone else in the pilot episode just seemed oddly place, as if to say ‘there are other people in this heaven and we do have other points of view to give you’. I will wait on that! If none of this opinion if shared, I truly understand, however there is one more final bad mark for the Good Place. It premiered on a Monday night, which may have given it hope and a life line to hold on to during contract renewals. But the shows regularly air night is Thursdays, going up against (but not limited to) Grey’s, Rosewood, and CBS Football. See you on the cancellation list Good Place….sorry Kristen.
Bull is not fresh, but it is a well-crafted brain teaser. Dr Jason Bull played by Michael Weatherly is not extraordinary, but he is compelling as a non-attorney saving others’ lives with a little legal manipulation. The premise of the show is different, but the format has tones of the Mentalist and Franklin & Bash. The weekly plot is in dire need of overarching conflict and a solid enemy. The supporting character’s identity is muddled and lost making them unfortunately unremarkable. This is mostly because they do not seem have defined roles within the Bull team. The show does not resonate with the average male viewer, there is no eye candy for the typical housewife, and the young victims in Dr. Jason Bull’s care are an obvious draw to the millennials viewers. Overall I think it could be successful on a USA or A&E, but NBC may not be so eager to renew BULL once next if it decides to put all their push behind some of their projected top runners like Training Day and Pure Genius. Overall the setup is basic, the writing lacks depth, and the performances are getting lost somewhere in the middle.
Timeless is the pop culture hit in a long list of over saturation of a single theme. It cannot go unnoticed that there are several TV shows premiering this fall/winter season with time travel as a center focus. Forgetting for a moment that time travel depictions are extremely hard to pull off, the network Timeless is being anchor by (NBC) is slowly moving to more comedy programming so Timeless will have a long haul if they want to be TV success history. The show’s creator Eric Kriple who gave us the long running TV show gem Supernatural definitely has proven he can deliver interesting stories and develop characters into staples. I think Timeless will be a slow and steady gainer, especially in the younger demographic. The only pit holes I have identified in the first two episodes is the main character Lucy played by Abigail Spencer. The show depends a lot on her ability to sound wise and knowledgeable on all things in American history. Her character thus far has been painted in a very young, innocent, and light-hearted; and that does not translate directly to smart and wise. It may be hard for the 50+ viewer to find her character as a reliable source on history. Malcom Burnett as Rufus is perfect for the role Kripere created. He naturally looks skeptical of everything and his brain power out plays his physical presence. These are all things that I love to see in my IT professional. He is smart and funny and I love him on the show. Overall Timeless is a win for me and it will be on my must see list every week.
Atlanta is an amazingly funny raw look at the life in a day of the young and struggling African American. It is comical, dark, and not appropriate for family television session, but for adults who laugh in spite of their life circumstances it is the perfect therapeutic hour. This show is the African American version of Seinfeld. It doesn’t really have the solid good guy bad guy/dynamic and the humor seems almost by accident, but somehow it works. I have watched 2 full episodes out of sequence and been thoroughly entertained each time. Vanessa played by Zazle Beetz is successful in life enough to make you believe that we (African Americans) are not all failure, but she is still plagued with the everyday grid of “having it all’; so most viewers in this demographic can related. I think the winning component of this show is the raw truths they display about life. Yes, while the scenarios played out on Atlanta are not experience by ALL BLACKS or even half, it is an experience of many who are just above the line in everything in life. Donald Glover does in outstanding job of portraying the yet to be successful father and he gets double acclaim with this show as creator. He is doing something that the movie 8 Mile already did, but bringing it from a weekly urban viewpoint. I am looking forward to its run and think it will be the dark underdog champion of cable TV this year.
Frequency is the CW new hit show. It is another one in line with the new trend of taking a movie that is just out of relevance range and turning it into a TV show. We saw it with Minority Report and Limitless and now CW is on the radio line. The show’s opener was not much different than the movie. For those of you who have not seen the 2000 Sci-fi thriller no worries, the pilot has given you what you need to move forward. The gender reverse (another TV trend) is going to be the pin that makes this show sink or swim. Ramiy Sullivan, played by newcomer Peyton List brings good passion to the screen, but it is Riley Smith performance as young/old dad that truly impresses me. He is gritty and apologetic and very much reminds me of Dennis Quaid in the original film. While personally I am a huge fan of the movie and its premise, I feel like it can only entertain the Comic Con audience. There is not enough of the law or crime investigation element to draw in the CSI or Law and Order fans, and just barely enough science fiction to intrigue viewers like me. The shows other big miss is the scheduling, it works perfectly for CW’s calendar, but has major competition amongst the other networks.
Although I did not write complete reviews I did also watch several series that returned for new seasons. Scandal, Code Black and Blackish all earned their return time slots. Veteran show Criminal Minds struggled with viewership. Not because the show’s substance, but because of poor casting and production choices. A special call out to Rosewood; I am not a fan of the show at all, but I am happy Morris Chestnut is out there making his mark on television. Disclosure, I watched 2 episodes of every show with the expectation of The Good Place (I just couldn’t’) and I took most my notes and thoughts down live to ensure that my opinion developed honestly and organically during the TV experience. I am looking forward to some Mid Season Premieres to fill my entertainment gap. Hopefully ABC Family’s Shadow Hunters can scratch my monster itch and help mend the womb’s Sleepy Hollow left behind. And I am equally hopefully that the new Kevin Williamson’s creation Time After Time will remove my yearning to jump back in time to save ABCs Forever.