What We’re Watching: Wednesday & Thursday

As it turns out, our Wednesdays and Thursdays are mixed between longtime favorites and brand new shows that are tickling our fancies these days. This batch includes mostly half hour comedies as well as my personal favorite comic book TV show Arrow. My wife also enjoyed this season of Cover Affairs, but I usually read or watching the other TV when it’s on because it just never quite grabbed me. If you’re interested, I covered Mondays and Tuesdays in a post last week.

WEDNESDAY

Arrow (8:00 PM, The CW)

arrow season 2 banner

Arrow is one of my favorite shows on TV and probably one of the ones I look forward to the most in any given week. I was cautiously optimistic when it kicked off last season, but got sucked in with the story of spoiled rich kid Oliver Queen trying to make things right in his city while also flashing back to his time on a crazy island. Sure there’s a ton of melodrama involved in the proceedings (it is a CW show after all), but I love the solid mix of action, fun stories and deep cuts when it comes to comic book references. I couldn’t help but compare Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to Arrow and in nearly every way, Arrow came off better.

Modern Family (9:00 PM, ABC)Modern Family - Season 5

I’m not really sure what to say about Modern Family that hasn’t been said a million times. It’s so intricately written and perfectly acted that it’s impossible not to fall in love. We’ve been watching the reruns on Fox at 7:30 every day after Jeopardy and even though there aren’t a ton of episodes, it’s a welcome addition to the syndication rotation.

Super Fun Night (9:30 PM, ABC)super fun night

I wanted to like Super Fun Night, but the first episode just killed all the excitement I had going in. The basic concept of the show is cool: three 30 somethings put a bunch of ideas for ladies night in a hat, pull one out and that’s what they do that evening. The problem? Star Rebel Wilson puts on a terrible American accent throughout the entire thing. There are pretty much three things everyone knows about Wilson after watching Pitch Perfect: she’s not America, she’s super funny and she can sing incredibly well. The first episode of this series tried to get you to forget two of these things as her character is nervous about karaoke. I was pretty much done at that point and tend to flip around or read during this time slot. I really think I would be back in if they just had her speak in her regular voice.

THURSDAY

The Big Bang Theory (8:00 PM, CBS)big bang theory season 7

We’re still big Big Bang Theory fans. I love how they’ve expanded the group to fully include Bernadette and Amy. It does kind of seem like the writers aren’t quite sure what to do with Penny lately. She and Sheldon work so well together, but they seem to be writing her a bit dumber than before. It’s a minor problem and I think they’re probably ramping up for something big at the end of the season, but we’ll see.

The Millers (8:30 PM, CBS)the millers

The Millers was a big surprise for me. We’ve liked previous Greg Garcia shows like My Name Is Earl and Raising Hope, but got burned out on the latter. I also didn’t much like Will Arnett’s two previous shows, Running Wilde and Up All Night. But I think this is enough of a departure for Garcia — it’s not about dumdums in a mysterious western town — and it allows Arnett to play awkward and put-upon in a way we haven’t quite seen before. I think it’s funny that last season saw all kinds of “adult kids moving back in with their parents” shows and this seasons has the reverse. Even though it’s not super original, I’m still enjoying two shows like that this season between Millers and Dads. As a nice bonus, the show features Jayma Mays who deserves a show better than Glee and Nelson Franklin who I’ve enjoyed on Traffic Light and his brief stint on New Girl. I hope the show succeeds just so I can keep seeing them all!

The Crazy Ones (9:00 PM, CBS)?????????????????????????

I’ll be honest, I wish Parks & Rec was on at 9:00 PM on Thursdays. I love that show and really miss it, but since we’re full-on into BBT, that’s the show we watch. Plus, it sounds like the schedule’s going to be all over the place. Anyway, since NBC doesn’t have much to offer, we’re watching The Crazy Ones, an ad agency comedy starring Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar as well as the guy who played Bob Benson on Mad Men and the former secretary from The Mindy Project. The dynamics on this show are a ton of fun and really carry it through. This is one of two shows that I could probably just watch the outtakes of and have a great time. New Girl is the other for what it’s worth. Still, as enjoyable as the show has been, I’d drop it in a heartbeat if it meant I could watch Parks & Rec.

The Michael J. Fox Show (9:30 PM, NBC)MichaelJFoxShow1

I think The Michael J. Fox Show is the only show we watch on NBC these days which is crazy because it used to one of the main stops for us, especially on Thursdays. As a dyed in the wool child of the 80s, I have an almost inborn love for all things Fox going back to the days of Family Ties on through Spin City. The fact that the show puts his Parkinsons right on front street and just deals with it as part of the ongoing story is an ingenious move that brings everyone in on what’s going on and deals with it honestly.

What We’re Watching: Mondays & Tuesdays

It’s been a crazy-long time since I’ve talked about TV here on UM, but that doesn’t mean we’re not watching. It’s an interesting season because there are a good deal of shows I’m really into, but also a lot of slots in the schedule that are left open. For what it’s worth, we’re still in the dark ages when it comes to cable and don’t have DVR, so all of our viewings are done the old fashion way, “live.”  Continue reading What We’re Watching: Mondays & Tuesdays

Halloween Scene: Bates Motel Episode 1 “First You Dream, Then You Die”

bates motel

I gave up watching a show I actively enjoy — yes, The Devil’s Ride, even though I complained about it’s realness recently — in favor of checking out Bates Motel on A&E. I’ve been writing about this series for what seems like forever over on Spinoff Online and yet I was still curious to see the results. A big part of that comes from the source material, just last year I watched all four of the Psycho films and got a weird, giddy thrill not only when Norman and Norma pulled up to the hotel, but even more so when they went inside and it looked perfect. I was also curious to see Carlton Cuse’s next offering. He was one of the driving forces behind Lost, a show I still hold in high esteem, so I wanted to see what he’d do next.

Bates Motel takes a Year One approach to the world of Psycho, showing how Norma (Vera Farmiga) and her son Norman (Freddie Highmore) made their way to the infamous Bates Motel. SPOILERS FOLLOW. The show literally starts with death, that of Norman’s dad and then jumps six months into the future as she surprises him with the purchase of the motel. Norman’s a bit odd, but we discover that he tends not to make connections with people because his mom moves him around so much. He meets a group of girls who seem to like him right off the bat and even invite him to study with them. His mom says no, so he sneaks out  and meets up with them, but they really take him to a weird house party. While he’s gone, the man whose family the motel used to belong to breaks into the house, attacks Norma and rapes her. Norman comes home just in time and knocks the guy out. When he leaves the room, Norma stabs the crap out of her attacker. The rest of the episode revolves around moving the body to one of the motel rooms, ripping up carpet, talking to cops, Norman dealing with all this at school, the disposal of the body and a super-weird talk between mother and son where he tells her that she’s his entire world. You get the idea pretty quickly about exactly who you’re dealing with in these characters. The looming mysteries revolve more around how those characters will interact with the people of the town, the mysterious and dangerous sounding older son who we only hear on the phone and why a young girl is being kept chained up in a mysterious locale by unknown forces.

Having watched the first episode, I’m not really sure how I feel. I’m thrown off balance and not just because of the graphic content of the show. I think the main problem I had with the episode, or possibly the main problem of the series as a whole, is that it lacks a consistent tone. For one thing, the time period feels all-over-the-place. The Bates’ dress as if they’re straight out of the 50s, they only talk about or watch old movies and the setting is so firmly entrenched in that time period that you get thrown off a bit when Norman is shown listening to an iPod and meets other kids who are more of the modern times. I knew from writing about the series that it was set in the present, but the show didn’t convey that until well into the first episode, something that probably threw more people off than it needed to. The real question here, though, is why they went with that vibe and that reveal. Was there a point beyond homage? If so, I’m not sure what it was. It doesn’t seem wise to throw your new audience so many random curve balls this early in a series, especially if there isn’t a clear payoff for them. I already get that we’re dealing with weirdness, it’s written on every single character’s face.

I also felt like some things were presented in such a way — like the teen party scene — that look over-the-top and kind of crazy. But then a few moments later you have a very real, visceral and mostly on-camera attack on Norma that doesn’t flinch or look away. That moment was uncomfortable enough as it was for obvious reasons, but even more so if your brain let you think, “… but, two minutes ago I saw a girls in neon clothes jumping on a bed under a backlight, now…this?” I haven’t watched much horror based television but this show does seem to be taking some cues from Twin Peaks which really is its own beast. While that series kept a very consistent tone all around — one that allowed for all kinds of weirdness, but all presented in a serious manner when necessary — this one seems to go from wacky to ultra-real and serious without much grace, almost looking like scenes from different movies cut together.

Before moving on to one of the show’s other problems, I want to talk a little bit more about the rape scene. I was as uncomfortable watching that scene as everyone else, but while it was playing out I also found myself wondering how the plus/minus evaluation for it played out in the writers room. You could have had the exact same scene with the same outcome had he only been there to attack her and not sexually assault her. I could see them arguing that you’ve got to have a more serious violation going on to make this man’s murder more palatable for young Norman, especially Norma’s argument that they can’t go to the cops because she’ll be  a laughingstock (she’s counting on his desire to protect her). I think you could have gotten there if Norman had walked in on this guy just about to stab his mom. There’s three reasons I didn’t like the scene. First off, it’s just plain uncomfortable to watch in a way that I don’t want to be uncomfortable while watching horror (I do not watch rape revenge movies,generally speaking). Second, it felt like lazy writing, as if they couldn’t think of a different way to justify murder and manipulation. We’re talking parents and children here, wanting to protect one another is built-in. And third, I think that scene might have turned a lot of people off the show as a whole, including my wife who watched along with me even though she does not like horror or have any special affinity for Psycho.

Another huge problem and an element that contributes to the show’s odd tone is Freddie Highmore’s inability to hide his British accent consistently. There’s times where he hides it well and just sounds like a soft spoken young man, but other times, usually when he’s angry, he sounds like a pub-drunk Brit. I think he does a good job of capturing the confused sexuality and overall repressed nature of Norman Bates, but the kid can’t sound like he’s his mother’s son. That’s a huge problem, one that can break the show for a lot of people. As with the time trickery and the weird tone, these are the kinds of things that can knock people out of the story. They might be small annoyances for some, but they can easily add up to become a too-distracting aspect of the show for some people to get involved in.

I was talking to my wife earlier today about the show and she said she wasn’t int it. She summed it up pretty well: she’s crazy, he’ll do anything for her, I know where this winds up, do I care how it gets there? That’s a really good question. As I mentioned above, it looks like they’re throwing a whole town of crazy at the Bates’ to see what happens. I’m not sure if that’s a set-up I’m super interested in. With something like Dexter, I can be into the overarching stories of the series as well as the murder-of-the-week stuff, but as of right now, it doesn’t seem like Bates has as much that makes me want to come back for more especially if it continues to wallow in such terrible human behavior.

At the end of the day, I’m still not sure about how I feel about the show. I’m still an old school, DVR-less viewer which means I’ve got to actually pick and choose which shows I want to watch. I might give Bates Motel another episode or two, but if it continues to feel wobbly, I might just hop back on over to The Devil’s Ride. If people like it I might catch up down the line. I also feel a little wary of A&E, though, because they really sucked me in with Breakout Kings and then left me hanging. Do I want to get into another one of their shows only to have the same thing happen?

Just Finished Once Upon A Time Season One

In case you were unaware, ABC’s Once Upon A Time is available on Netflix Instant. When I saw this I was curious. I hadn’t heard much about the show — which I realized is the result of not talking to people about TV much anymore, one of the bummers of not having in-house co-workers — but the concept sounded interesting: characters from fairy tales are trapped in the real world and one woman is trying to deal with them while we see flashbacks to their previous lives. It sounded like a very Lost set-up, which makes sense when you realize it was created by two writers from that show Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis. I proposed checking it out to the missus, she was amenable, so we gave the first episode a whirl. That was a little over a week ago and we just finished the 22 episode season last night.

To get into a little more detail, the series revolves around Emma, the daughter of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwinn) and Prince Charming who was sent to our world as a baby just before the Evil Queen (Swingtown‘s Lana Parrilla) cursed the fairy tale world by imprisoning them in a world without magic where they don’t remember their past lives. Emma had her own child who she gave up for adoption and wound up adopted by the EQ in our world. Years later, he’s one of the few people who know the truth, so he tracks his mom down, tells her what he knows and gets her to stick around town.

From there we get  episodic reveals of new characters, backstories in both worlds and growing intrigue. It’s a really well set up series that gives you enough information while also seeding new ones to keep you coming back for more. I was particularly taken by the choice to definitively show the audience that the kid is telling the truth, but having most of the town think he’s nuts, including his biological mom. There are also really creative uses of some very familiar fairy tales, I especially liked how they incorporated Belle and the Beauty and the Beast story. It’s fun because they’re basing their stories on existing mythology while creating a whole new one, kind of like a comic book relaunch/reboot/whathaveyou.

We wound up finishing the first season at around 8:50 PM last night which was unfortunate timing because the first episode of the second season premiered at 8:00 PM. I will admit that I’m a little leery about watching this show as it comes out. The beauty of checking out an entire season on DVD or via streaming is that you see all the pieces in a relatively short amount of time meaning you remember a lot more of the connections. Plus, cliffhangers (either around commercials or between episodes) get resolved a lot faster. I like that immediate gratification.

On the other hand, I have been looking for my new Lost. When I say that I don’t just mean a series with weird elements and lots of drama, half of which is told via flashback. I mean the kind of show I get really excited about every single week, the kind of show I’m deeply invested in and love absorbing. Weird as this might sound, the closest thing I have to that right now is How I Met Your Mother — which is more like Lost than just about anything — and the various Challenges.

A good testament to how much we like the show is that we’re actually planning on giving up a show we usually watch in an effort to get on board with the episodes as they air. Usually we watch The Amazing Race, but as we talked about this very serious decision last night (I kid…mostly), I pointed out that it doesn’t really matter if you miss a season of AR because there’s no carry over. If we don’t like watching OUAT in real time, we can easily switch over and not miss much of anything. So, all we need to do now is watch the season premiere online and we’re good to go next Sunday.

Mad Men Season 5 Thoughts So Far

Well, we’re four episodes into Mad Men and it’s been quite a season already. Pete’s clearly unhappy, Don’s surprisingly (suspiciously?) happy, Roger’s showing his uselessness, Joan’s being awesome, Betty’s turning into everything she hated and Peggy’s…well, Peggy. Between reading my pal Sean Collins’ posts, talking to my wife and reading Tom and Lorenzo’s post recaps and fashion explorations of the episodes I not only don’t feel compelled to blog every episode, but also I’m noticing all kinds of other things that I might have missed. The following are a few random ideas that have either popped into my head or been put there by someone else. Hit the jump if you’re curious. Continue reading Mad Men Season 5 Thoughts So Far

Sunday Nights: An Embarrassment Of TV Riches

Man, you guys, when did Sundays become such great TV nights? I remember back in the day the dearth of weekend program would result in me watching syndicated shows like Renegade, MANTIS or that futuristic Knight Rider thing. Now it’s one of the nights most packed with shows my wife and I want to watch, especially right now with Discovery coming out hot and heavy with news shows. I’ll put this out there right now: we don’t have DVR because the wiring in our building is too old, so we have to watch what’s on. I started thinking about all this a few weeks back when AMC’s Comic Book Men premiered. I’m a fan of Kevin Smith and his friends featured on the show, plus I covered some of the PR events for CBR. But, something else was on at 10PM, Sunday nights. I can’t remember what it was when the show first premiered, but a couple weeks back it wound up being A&E’s Breakout Kings, which is also on at 10PM. CBM wrapped up last week, so I’m hoping I can catch a marathon at some point, but we do enjoy Breakout Kings quite a bit, especially thanks to the fact that this season has more of an overarching story with the remaining Kings trying to track down the guy that killed SPOILER Charlie. I also like what they’re doing with Erica and the dude who works downstairs. Can we get an updated title sequence, too, by the way? It just looks silly with one character edited out. But, Mad Men‘s back tonight, which really throws a wrench in our schedule, especially because the premiere is two hours long. It’s really no question between whether we watch Mad Men or Breakout Kings, even though we both like the latter, it’s nowhere near as good as the former. Mad Men feels more like an event anyway, one that I like keeping up on. I think I’ll be able to watch BK at 11PM, but my wife goes to bed by then, so she’ll probably miss out. The 10PM slot also now has the brand new Rube Goldberg-inspired show by the Mythbusters called Unchained Reaction. The concept behind the series it that two teams are tasked with making a Chained Reaction machine with a particular theme. As longtime readers will remember, I love me some Goldbergian machines, so this show could not be more interesting to me. I thought this show was premiering tonight, but I am watching the Heavy vs. Light episode as I type, so it either already debuted or this is kind of a sneaky way to show it off early. I’m already digging this show and would love to watch it on a regular basis. Thankfully, Discovery has a good track record of showing reruns, so I’m sure I’ll catch up.

Discovery also has a show in the 9:00PM spot that we love watching, Mythbusters. Again, I know these shows get rerun on a pretty regular basis, but the premiere–which is tonight for sure–features Jamie and Adam stranded on a desert island with nothing but duct tape to survive on. That’s pretty awesome and I’d like to watch, but the extended Mad Men premiere will be keeping us away, but after that, I think we’ll be all set. We’re also a bit conflicted in the 8:00PM slot. Usually we just watch Amazing Race, which can sometimes be pushed back thanks to sports, which is a bit of a bummer. But, right now Discovery also has Frozen Planet on at the same time which looks gorgeous in HD (yes, our HD channels started working again).

So that’s where we’re at. Like I said in the title, it’s an embarrassment of riches. I’d always rather have too many shows I want to watch than not enough. Well, actually, if there were fewer shows on that I wanted to watch, I’d probably get more reading done…

A Few Belated Thoughts On Alcatraz

The new J.J. Abrams show premiered this week. It’s called Alcatraz and the idea this time is that instead of closing its doors like the public was told, every inmate being held there just vanished. Now, the mysterious former prison guard there and current FBI agent Emerson Hauser (Sam Neil) has recruited SFPD homicide detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) and Alcatraz historian Dr. Diego “Doc” Soto (Jorge Garcia) to track the prisoners down as they have started to reappear in the modern day without aging a day. It’s a pretty interesting set up that lends itsself well to both the case-a-week procedural type show as well as the kind of overarching mystery and drama that fans of Abrams’ other shows have come to expect and (sometimes) love.

To be clear, though, this is about as much of a J.J. Abrams show as Lost was, meaning not a lot. As fans of that other series know, that ship was driven by Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof after being launched by Abrams. Similarly, the good ship Alcatraz was created by Elizabeth Sarnoff who wrote and produced on Lost and Deadwood, Steven Lilien who wrote on Boomtown and Kyle XY and Brian Wynbrandt who also wrote on Kyle XY. But the comparisons to other Abrams shows is pretty strong, considering the mysterious premise and Garcia in a lead role.

Of course, like a lot of people I didn’t know any of that going into the series. I just knew it was a mysterious new show with Abrams attached and I was interested. We missed the first episode that played at 8:00PM on Monday, but was able to catch the second episode which is the series’ actual timeslot (thank goodness because I’m not about to stop watching How I Met Your Mother). Even having missed the first episode, I was still able to get the gist–it helps that a voiceover in the beginning pretty much lays everything out for you. I’d like to go back and see exactly how Hauser brought Rebecca and Doc into the fold, but I’d imagine it’s because she was trying to hunt down a killer who wound up being a time-displaced Alcatraz inmate and he was drafted because of his area of expertise. That part isn’t complex, which is good because, as the series bounced between the 60s and the present day, you don’t need a lot of additional baggage this early on to figure out what’s going on.

And there is a lot going on. Hauser knows a lot more than he’s letting on and Rebecca knows that, but can’t get much more information out of him for the time being. The inmate who the captured in the first episode has some kind of key that has yet to be identified. Heck, one of the people who we see in the modern day shows up in the past looking exactly the same age!

Like I said, I’m glad they put this one on at 9:00PM on Mondays because that was one of our few weekday slots that didn’t already feature shows we look forward to every week and I think Alcatraz can make that list. Even since Lost ended, I’ve been looking for another hour long drama with lots of action and mystery to keep me engaged and I hope this is it. As it is, I’m intrigued and appreciate some of the teases and reveals they’ve shown us already with only two episodes in. I am curious to see how they handle this series. Fox can be iffy at best when it comes to letting series’ like this play long enough to grab viewers. I hope they do and that the writers have a solid plan for getting the information to the viewers efficiently. I mean, I like the concept, but I don’t want to see 299 episodes of inmates getting captured to find out what happens.