Saturday, October 17, 2015
Viewers approach every new fall TV season with excitement. Our DVRs get programmed to bursting, recording every new show that looks remotely interesting alongside our returning faves. Gradually, as the weeks wear on, we find our new faves and discard the shows that didn't win us over. Early cancellations weed out the schedule even when we don't want it to.
This year began with a lot of excitement. So many new dramas and comedies with big names, big ideas, and tons of promise. While it's still early in the new TV season, we can't help feeling a sort of television limbo. Rather than big hits and tragic misses, the series we've tuned in for have been...mostly sorta okay. There's nothing that we immediately want to banish from our DVRs and scrub from our memories, but there are very few shows that hold much excitement for us, either.
THE OBVIOUS WINNERS
"The Player" -- As far as generating excitement, we're still loving "The Player." The trio of Wesley Snipes, Philip Winchester, and Charity Wakefield light up our small screens in so many smooth and sexy ways. The adventures are fast-paced and entertaining, the stakes are high, and the underlying mystery tying the characters together offers just the right amount of frustrating suspense that has us looking forward to the next installment.
Despite the rather ridiculous plot of wealthy gamblers betting on crime, the show has a lot more wit and unpredictable twists than your average crash-bang action romp. We genuinely hope this show sticks around.
"Heroes Reborn" -- Even the beloved first season of the original "Heroes" had some irritating characters that we dreaded spending time with. This sequel series so far has gifted us with a lot of interesting, likable characters that we actually care about. Miko (Kiki Sukezane) and Ren (Toru Uchikado) may be two of the most awesome, ridiculously adorable characters in TV history.
Noah Bennett (Jack Coleman) is a fantastic focal point, playing at hero but with wiped memories that hide some big secrets about deadly events in the past and the future. We get to revisit and remember some former heroes, and meet new ones with interesting powers. And we're back to the "Save the World" connecting thread, which is what sucked us all in to its predecessor. So far, so good--we're hooked.
THE BIG MEH
"Blindspot" -- We're willing to forgive a lot because of the awesomely unique storyline of a former Navy Seal who wakes up in a duffel bag in Times Square, with amnesia, her body tattooed with an intricate array of mysterious codes and clues to a network of crime. Plus, we love Jaimie Alexander so much. But by the second episode we were already cringing over the show's flaws. Despite the disappointing execution of a fab idea, the show has earned fans with its intriguing hook and recently earned a full season order. The actors seem to be getting a bit more comfortable with each other as the series progresses, and we're hoping some of the eye-rolling plot moments and dumbed-down dialogue improve over time.
"Rosewood" -- This is probably never going to break free of "guilty pleasure" territory, but we need it to step up its game a bit more. The show skates on the amusing heights of positive energy and charm from the Miami-Vice-2.0-wardrobed Morris Chestnut, and the Sherlockian crime-solving can be a lot of fun. The pilot was horrendous, however, with over-the-top scenes of private coroners examining dead bodies in club wear, with no protective clothing or gloves or consideration for all the possible germs they then carried outside on their fashionable outfits.
Subsequent episodes have made a better attempt at reality in that regard, and the family drama provides some touching moments. But despite some entertaining banter with Rosie's police detective collaborator Villa (Jaina Lee Ortiz), the writers have made the troubled cop way too abrasive and often gratingly unlikable.
"Minority Report" -- We're thankful that tough cop Vega's (Meagan Good) cleavage is no longer stealing every scene, but the show has already gotten repetitive with its formula every week. See Dash (Stark Sands) have a vision at an inappropriate time. See him suffer agonizingly as they try to suck further images out of his head. Cue naive adventurer versus jaded, experienced cop banter. Watch our heroes ask the same people for help who express reluctance to help. And on and on we go. A subplot forming with the other precogs has added interest, however, and a hint of the ominous creepiness that helped make the original film so riveting.
"Grandfathered" -- Sitcoms play with caricatures of course. But this John Stamos vehicle takes it too far. A flashy, suave bachelor restaurant owner meeting a previously unknown-to-him nerdy son and grandchild is a perfect set-up for "Odd Couple" levels of comic conflict. But "Grandfathered" makes Jimmy such an obnoxiously selfish asshole and his son a mortifyingly doe-eyed pathetic dork that we are usually thoroughly disgusted with both of them by the time the "feel good" portion of the program is supposed to kick in. The supporting players have their moments and sometimes the comedy lands well. But it's 50/50 enjoy/hate every week and that will spell doom pretty quickly.
"The Grinder" -- Marginally better than its "Grandfathered" lead-in, this show about a lawyer whose actor brother decides to join the family business at least has some sharper wit. Rob Lowe is supposed to be the main draw as the narcissistic charmer, but Fred Savage steals the show with his wry delivery as the "sensible" brother who resents living in his famous bro's shadow. The series still has its irritating, predictable moments, but so far the relief has been that the "lesser" brother's wife is always supportive instead of a nagging shrew, and the flashy actor brother doesn't always get his way. We're still overall a bit meh about the whole thing, but this one seems to have a bit more potential to stay on the DVR.
"Limitless" -- We were promised Bradley Cooper would remain a part of the series based on his feature film, but so far he's only turned up in the pilot--then they've replayed that same footage in every episode that follows. Jake McDorman does a good job of believably portraying both halves of his character Brian, the affable loser musician who's always between jobs and the ridiculously brilliant and suave FBI liaison whose sudden brain power comes from a dangerous drug. It's mildly entertaining during the investigations, but all the secrets and lies and threats between the characters has already become exhausting.
"Quantico" -- This drama had a promising premise about new FBI recruits going through tough physical and emotional training together, and then finding out one of them is a terrorist who executes a devastating attack. Priyanka Chopra plays the innocent recruit the whole mess gets pinned on, and while she's fine at playing sexy and athletic, her attempts at emotion are pretty cringe-worthy. She's often not helped by the writing, which heaps on corny dialogue and melodrama. The characters get a bit more interesting over time as we continually learn that people are not at all what they seem, even when you've done extensive background checks on them. The mystery and manhunt is enough to keep us interested right now, but the show fits well inside our ongoing theme of wasted potential in new shows.
What do you think of the new season? Any new favorites, or is it all just "meh" material to you?
Thursday, October 1, 2015
I just couldn't resist using Wesley Snipes' famous line from "Passenger 57" to talk about his new show, "The Player." When initial news of this pilot came out, the plot line was one of the most absurd pitches out there. A group of filthy rich people bet big money on serious crimes--and whether "the player" will stop that crime and/or get killed in the process. Snipes plays Mr. Johnson, the pit boss over this little operation. And Charity Wakefield plays Cassandra, the dealer.
Philip Winchester, whom some of you may know from "Strike Back" or "Fringe," was a fave of mine from his short-lived series "Crusoe." His former-military-man-turned-security-expert Alex is recruited to be "The Player," and he is as I remembered, a complete stud with just the right amount of sly charm.
Snipes gets to be a cool, smooth, enigmatic operator who's a total badass under those expensive suits. He also has an unexpected scene where he creates a hilarious fake persona that earns laughs, but also displays a bit chillingly how much power he has. And Wakefield infuses ice queen Cassandra with a surprising hint of warmth and affection for Alex--and not in a cliche, oh of course she's in love with him, way--there's an interesting level of meaningful earnestness in her performance.
And "The Player" is actually pretty damn good. Yes, the plot is still totally crazy, but the show does a good job of talking its way around it. It lays the premise in right away, gives Alex good motivation for taking part in the insanity, and then rolls right into the action. It also gives us a solid hero to root for. The bettors don't give a crap about collateral damage, it's all a game to them. Alex is the guy who will care about the innocents, and we'll be cheering for him to succeed even while a bunch of faceless assholes are betting against him.
The series premiere also took an element of the show that totally angered me, a typical device that so often gets series/movies like this started. I'll keep this non-spoilery, but there's a twist at the end that totally relieved me of that anger, and which added a brilliant "WTF?" angle to the mystery of who Johnson and Cassandra really are.
So put this one on your DVR schedule, peeps. It's great popcorn television, and a respite from all the typical cop shows. Plus it's great to have Snipes bringing his welcome brand of Awesomeness into our lives each week.
"The Player" airs Thursday nights on NBC, at 10/9c.