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Archive for the Category "Television"

New TV Shows – What’s Worth Watching? Oct 05

We’re a few weeks into the 2011 Fall season of new tv shows. I’ve checked out a few, so I thought I’d give you my highly subjective take on the ones I’ve watched so far, from “worst” to best. I put “worst” in quotes because none of these shows were bad. But several were disappointments.

I look forward to hearing from those who soldiered on with the shows I stopped watching. Did they get better?

Stay with me to the bottom of the article to see the television series I’m now calling the best new show of the fall season. See if you agree.

If you haven’t watched these shows on your DVR yet, beware *** SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW ***.

RingerRINGER

A young woman on the run from the mob poses as her wealthy twin sister to try and evade them, but soon discovers that her sister has a price on her head as well. (via IMDB)

Episodes watched: 1
Final grade: C
Verdict: Bail

I had high hopes for Sarah Michelle Gellar’s return to television. The show was competent. It hit all the beats. But it just didn’t grab me like I wanted it to — maybe because there were no real surprises.

And don’t even get me started on the Saturday Night Live quality green screen special effects used for the speedboat scene. I almost hit the delete button right then and there.

Terra NovaTERRA NOVA

Centers on the Shannons, an ordinary family from 2149 when the planet is dying who are transported back 85 million years to prehistoric Earth where they join Terra Nova, a colony of humans with a second chance to build a civilization. (via IMDB)

Episodes watched: 2
Final grade: C+
Verdict: Holding on by a thread

Wow, what an uneven pilot they came up with. Visually spectacular, but the story… What maximum security prison allows people to bring in unchecked gifts for inmates? Even if he did have that laser slicey thing, how did the husband get out? (That may have made for a more interesting pilot). And how did he hire some dude to bring [kidnap?] his daughter to him in a back pack? And the son — one minute he’s like, “I’m not leaving without Dad.” And the next minute he’s like, “Dad I hate you, where were you for the last 2 years?”

Implausibility seems to be a troubling, ongoing theme with this show. In the second episode, several military men are driving in an open sided vehicle, despite the fact that there are big scary creatures known to attack fully armored vehicles. Then these trained military men are then killed by bird-like creatures, yet later we see many attacks on people without body armor or weapons who survive. It’s borderline ridiculous. I’m giving this show one more chance to get it right.

RevengeREVENGE

Centers on a young woman who is welcomed into a community filled with people who don’t know she’s only there to exact revenge on those who had destroyed her family. (via IMDB)

Episodes watched: 1
Final grade: B-
Verdict: ZZZZzzzz

Revenge may be a dish that is best served cold, but that doesn’t mean I want my lead actress to be cold and uncharismatic. Damn, I was so looking forward to this show. The Count of Monte Cristo, which this show was modeled on, may be the best story ever written. But this show (the pilot episode at least) failed to capitalize on the premise in my opinion. It was too slow moving, and the revenge schemes weren’t all that clever or interesting. I can see how lovers of soap operas would enjoy this show, but it had a much broader potential that was squandered in the pilot.

Something I think this show really could have used more of was Voice Over, to bring us inside the main character’s thoughts and motives throughout the episode. That’s part of what made Profit such a brilliant show (and unfortunately ahead of its time). And can you imagine Dexter without it?

New GirlNEW GIRL

A comedy about the sexual politics of men and women. (via IMDB) And a fantasy about a woman most men in real life would kill to date, but is somehow repugnant to everyone around her (that last bit added by me).

Episodes watched: 3
Final Grade: A-
Verdict: You had me at Zooey Deschanel

All of the characters on this show do a good job, but there’s really only one reason you watch — Zooey Deschanel. If you can suspend your disbelief that there’s this beautiful, hilarious, approachable girl that none of the heterosexual roommates want to date, then you can settle into one of the funniest new shows of the fall. The most recent episodes have shown a lot of growth in the supporting characters as well and I’m really exited about this show’s prospects.

But Zooey, I’m watching you — I see what you do to guys in your movies (500 Days of Summer, All the Real Girls), so don’t be pulling any of that stuff on your lovestruck loyal viewers!

Person of InterestPERSON OF INTEREST

Centers on ex-CIA hitman and a scientist who team up to prevent crimes before they happen. (via IMDB)

Episodes watched: 2
Final grade: A
Verdict: I’m hooked

Finally, a show that actually exceeded my expectations (even with the pedigrees of J.J. Abrams and Jonathan Nolan as Executive Producers)! After watching the previews for this show, I was a little bit worried that the premise would be too implausible, but I think they nailed it. The shows are gripping, action packed thrill rides from start to finish. The story lines are fresh, with many clever twists that elevate the series above the standard procedural.

Bonus points for this show: We get to hear Michael Emerson call someone “John” again every week.

And finally, my vote for the best new show of the fall 2011 season…

HomelandHOMELAND

Centers on Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody, who returns home eight years after going missing in Iraq, and Carrie Anderson, a driven (and possibly unstable) CIA officer who suspects he might be plotting an attack on America. (via IMDB)

Episodes watched: 1
Final grade: A+
Verdict: Must see television!

Wow. You could tell from the previews that this show was going to be really good. But who would have thought it would be that good! The set up of this show is fantastic. What the previews don’t show you well enough is that the co-main character, played by Claire Danes, is borderline crazy. She’s the only one who believes that a returning war hero may have been turned into a sleeper terrorist — and she may actually be right. The set up is delicious from the points of view of all of the characters involved. I don’t want to ruin any more of the fun. If you missed this show, you need to check it out on Showtime this week. They’ve only aired one episode. Look for this show’s actors to receive Emmy nods come awards season.

Perhaps my mom said it best after watching this show. When the episode ended, she was confused for a fraction of a second because she forgot she was watching a TV show — not a movie! The production quality and acting is that good.

Anyway, it’s your turn to let me know what you think.

Which show do I need to give another chance to? What did I get right? What did I flat out get wrong? What important new shows did I miss?

Category: Television  | 9 Comments
The Three Ps Aug 06

The Three PsThe Glee Project

Is anyone else out there watching The Glee Project? For those who don’t know about it, The Glee Project is a pretty cool little talent show on the Oxygen network that gives the winner a seven episode character arc on the upcoming season of Glee.

Now that’s what I call a prize!

The Three Ps

Anyway, there was a recent episode where Max Adler (who plays the closeted bully, Dave Karofsky) was giving some advice to the contestants, and mentioned the three Ps, as the secret to success.

Passion

Persistence

Patience

How excellent is that?! I’d never heard that one before. A great reminder for actors, singers, screenwriters and anyone else pursuing a dream.

Do you have all three?


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Is quadruple mumbo jumbo killing True Blood? Jul 19

Blake Snyder

Blake Snyder, the late author of the superb screenwriting book, Save the Cat!, coined the term: “Double Mumbo Jumbo.”

I propose to you that, for some reason, audiences will only accept one piece of magic per movie. It’s The Law. You cannot see aliens from outer space land in a UFO and then be bitten by a Vampire and now be both aliens and undead.

That, my friends, is Double Mumbo Jumbo.

Of course, as Blake goes on to say, this rule is broken all the time in Hollywood. Sometimes it works fairly well — Monsters vs. Aliens. Most times it doesn’t — Howard the Duck (A trash-talking alien duck that has sex with Marty McFly’s mom — what could go wrong?).

Obviously True Blood is an adaptation, where characters and situations from the books need to be incorporated to stay true to the source material. I’ve never read the books, but I have to wonder — has the cable show gone off the rails recently?

More shapeshifters than you can shake a stick at

True Blood Mumbo JumboTrue Blood used to be my favorite show. In season one, it was an intense exploration of the vampire genre with very adult themes and a wicked sense of humor. Now it tends be more of a bizarre mishmash, where every other character turns into a different animal or creature.

We’ve seen vampires and demons and shapeshifters — who can turn into anything, and shapeshifters — who can only turn into wolves, and shapeshifters — who can only turn into panthers, and faeries and witches and possessed babies and now there’s talk of werewolves…

I don’t know how loyally Alan Ball has followed the Sookie Stackhouse books, but it seems to me there’s way too much mumbo jumbo going on in Bon Temps these days.

Why did Buffy work so well?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a very similar universe, and worked exceptionally well. So what’s the difference?

I think Buffy works, where True Blood doesn’t, on a few levels:

– Buffy had a lighter feel to it. The focus was usually on the snappy banter and most scenes were played for laughs. Whereas True Blood definitely has a darker tone. That more adult vibe makes it harder to get away with the sillier elements of the story.

– Every season of Buffy had a “Big Bad” — a main foe that the characters had to face. True Blood seems to be lacking that this year. Perhaps the witch lady is gearing up to fill those shoes.

– The core group of “Scoobies” on Buffy were usually pitted against one particular opponent. It was rare that two dissimilar foes would be brought into the picture per episode. You definitely can’t say the same for True Blood. It feels like there are a dozen different storylines per episode.

Anyone else think True Blood has suffered from some growing pains these last couple of seasons?

The Late Villain Reveal in Television Dec 06

There can be only one... scriptMany years ago, when I was young(er) and dumb(er), I decided to write a Highlander: The TV Series script on spec. In my story, someone was trying to kill Duncan MacLeod, and the episode was about finding out who it was.

Through a combination of tenacity and ignorance, I was actually able to get the show’s producer/writer, David Tynan, to read it.

Lucky for me, he was a really nice guy and gave me some great advice and encouragement. I’ll save the lessons I learned for another day. Today’s post is about one of his criticisms of my script. He said that I had introduced my villain too late.

You know how in every whodunnit type of show, you’re introduced to all the suspects early on, then the episode serves up a platter of misdirection, until the end when you realize it was the person you least expected?

Well I hate that crap. When you know the rule, and you see the meek school teacher with the cute stutter, you know you’ve found your killer.

So I framed my episode this way:

  • introduce all the suspects early on
  • serve up a platter of misdirection
  • have the main characters realize toward the end it was the person they least expected, but…
  • have them be WRONG
  • have the actual killer be someone we hadn’t seen previously in the episode (but had been referenced)

I thought it was a clever play against the standard framework, but perhaps it was too unfamiliar. So unfamiliar in fact, that I’ve never seen it. Ever…

Until the last episode of Castle entitled “Close Encounters of the Murderous Kind.”

In that episode, which involved an unholy mix of UFOs and Lyle Lovett,  a doctor was referenced early on, but we never saw him.

Towards the end of the episode, I thought they were going to zero in on the cute female observatory assistant — but no! The doctor, who we’d never seen before, turns out to be the villain. It was a true surprise and I thought it worked really well.

Did anyone else see the episode? What did you think?

Have you ever seen this type of late villain reveal in any other show?


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Did No Ordinary Family pull a “Riker’s Beard”? Nov 17

No Ordinary FamilyIs anyone else watching No Ordinary Familythe show about a family of superheroes? I think it may have pulled a Riker’s Beard (the opposite of “Jump the Shark”) in last night’s episode, and turned itself around.

Don’t get me wrong, the show has its inspired moments. But usually it’s so bad that I created a new drinking game. You do a shot when you see something completely unbelievable.1

Here’s how you would have played the game with last week’s episode:

  • When the nosy grandparents show up unexpectedly, the entire family goes outside to talk in “private.” They discuss their superpowers out in their driveway in the still of night, without lowering their voices in any way.
    TAKE A SHOT
  • The family is worried that the grandparents will notice something is different with them, so instead of trying to avoid them, they inexplicably alter their lives to spend more time with the grandparents so they can keep the grandparents from figuring anything out. On what planet does that make sense? 2
    TAKE A SHOT
  • The father, who has super strength, jumps up to a half a mile from house rooftop to house rooftop without so much as breaking a tile or alerting the houses’ occupants.  Does he have silencer shoes? Why couldn’t he have simply made these jumps in alleys behind the houses or somewhere else more stable and discreet?
    TAKE A SHOT

Needless to say, if I play this game I’m usually sloshed by the end of the episode.

But last night’s episode was disappointing, in that it wasn’t, er… disappointing. It was actually pretty good. Maybe the disparate voices in the writers’ room have finally agreed on the tone of show? Maybe it has pulled a Riker’s Beard and is about to become awesome?

Only time will tell. But in the meantime, I’ll have my booze ready. (Maybe the trick is to drink before watching the show?)

Anyone else find last night’s episode uncharacteristically good? Anyone think I’m off base? What’s your take?


Want me to read your screenplay? Please take a look at my script services.

  1. “Unbelievable” shouldn’t be confused with “unrealistic.” An “unrealistic” world where superheroes exist should still come across as  believable.
  2. The plot device with the grandparents is necessary, but surely they could have come up with a less absurd explanation to force the interaction.
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Category: Television, Writing  | 3 Comments