I’ll be rating each show using the following designations: Live! (a show I will try to watch every week), DVR/App (I like it, but can wait till the weekend to watch), Check Back (could be good, but I’ll wait a few weeks and see if it gets better before watching again) and Netflix (I’ll wait till the whole season is over before checking it out). I’m never going to suggest “not to watch” because shows can get better and my taste will not always be your taste.
8:00 pm ET
Since the end of Lost, the ABC Network has desperately searched for a “buzz-worthy” show to replace it– even though the rest of its programming doesn’t lend itself to the hardcore fan base of the previous J.J. Abrams hit. And while the network is seeing success with shows like last season’s Revenge, Once Upon A Time and Scandal, they must have realized they’ve been shunning the males in TV Land… So in comes Last Resort.
I have to admit ABC did a good job with the ad campaign for this show, as to not give too much away– but still give enough clues so viewers could form a general picture. As I watched the episode, I couldn’t help but have flashbacks to The Hunt for Red October. Only this time, it’s Americans vs Americans when the crew of a renegade submarine questions a mysterious order to nuke Pakistan. Since the rogue sub and the people aboard it obviously can’t go back to the US, they annex a small island that has both a NATO early warning station and a town that can’t decide if it’s a tourist spot or a third world den of thieves. By the end of the episode, there’s talk the crew may have to start thinking about starting America over on the island.
Wait… A bunch of people, trapped on a strange island due to mysterious circumstances– who must invent a new way to survive? Why does that sound familiar?
I bet I seem cynical. It’s kinda hard not to, when the base structure of this show relies on two such well-known themes from another popular series recently seen on television. But that doesn’t mean Last Resort can’t stand on its own. While the thematic references are blatant, they also help the audience understand the new show’s various elements quickly– leaving room for the story to stay punchy and entertaining. All the actors do a great job and the pilot script is among the best this Fall– certainly in the drama genre anyway.
And while I see this series as ABC’s blatant attempt to replicate Lost, I think Last Resort has the potential to be a lot more. If I only had time to watch one new drama this season, Last Resort would be the show I’d watch (so far).
10:00 pm ET
I’m forced to make another confession: I’ve never seen even one episode of Steven Moffat’s Sherlock. So when the news came that CBS gave the greenlight to Elementary, I didn’t have the same visceral reaction to the new series fans of Moffat’s BBC show experienced. Sure, I thought it was suspect and more than a bit sad that CBS seemingly decided to make bank off Moffat’s success… But this is, by far, not the first time in TV history a network has released a copycat show. Some fans getting so upset leads me to think they might just be a little too attached to Sherlock.
In other words, I understand how the “business” operates in Hollywood and, as a critic, I prefer to leave the litigation and ownership aspects behind the Sherlock/Elementary feud to the lawyers and principals involved– if any such concrete legal action ever surfaces. I’m just here to write a review. In the meantime, if you strongly believe CBS is infringing on someone else’s work– there’s simple solution: Don’t watch their show.
But doing my job as a critic, my question is, “How did Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu do taking over the legendary roles of Holmes and Watson?” In all honesty, the results aren’t half bad. Lee and Liu are both good actors, so even the weakest moments in the premiere script were tolerable. As the show went on, the relationship between Holmes and Watson built naturally and the viewing experience got better and better.
There were some things that I didn’t completely enjoy. First, Watson being a former surgeon– now sober companion– felt like a more distant link than necessary. There was only one moment where Watson engaged in Holmes’ investigation during the pilot and she really didn’t build off that until Holmes’ outlandish conduct eventually lands him in jail. It’s one thing when Watson plays the all-knowing observer for the reader in the Arthur Conan Doyle stories, but when the camera takes over the observer role in this television series– Watson must be used to fill in more of the narrative.
Holmes also came off as far too perceptive. There’s a great scene in the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation– where Data plays Holmes on the starship’s holodeck. Because he is a computer and has all the original Sherlock Holmes stories in his memory– he solves the mystery 30 seconds into the simulation program. It felt a lot like that as I watched the first half of Elementary. By the second half, the discovery of clues– and the deductions made from them– were better paced and I could start to believe in Holmes as a real, flesh-and-blood character.
I’m not in love with Elementary, but I think it deserves a chance to develop. Just because there is a successful Holmes series on the air already, doesn’t mean this one can’t co-exist. Check it out and see what you think.
Made In Jersey
9:00 pm ET
I would have skipped this show if I hadn’t already promised to watch as many new series’ premieres as humanly possible. Apparently, most of America didn’t make the same commitment I did– since Made In Jersey has already been cancelled by CBS and will soon be replaced with solid reality performer Undercover Boss. I’m not surprised. Being from New Hampshire and now living in New Jersey, I already get enough “Jersey Culture” than I care experience… And this show’s publicity never overcame the perception it was related– however tangential– to MTV’s Jersey Shore abomination.
Given all that, it makes perfect sense Made in Jersey pleasantly surprised me… Meaning, once again, you can’t always judge a TV show by its’ promos or title.
If you’ve ever watched Legally Blonde, you’ll get a distinct feeling of deja vu from this pilot. The only difference: Instead of a blonde sorority character, MIJ revolves around a dark-haired intelligent Marisa Tomei type (think My Cousin Vinny). This switch obviously occurred to increase the show’s believability factor. It’s easy to enjoy one movie about a stereotypical blonde and quite another to support an “airhead” for seven television seasons. (Not that Made In Jersey was ever going to get that far.)
This is/was actually a very good show– even with the somewhat kitschy Legally Blonde elements ever-present. Janet Montgomery does/did great portraying main lawyer character Martina Garretti as a strong, intelligent woman– who has more than enough street smarts and book smarts to get the job done… Often in ways no other attorney could/would operate.
Unfortunately, there was also an abundant use of stereotypes when creating the supporting cast. Natalie Marsh plays/played the obvious “bitch” lawyer who feels she’s had to act like the men at her firm– not impressed with still feminine Martina succeeding so soon. Felix Solis is/was a better adjusted– but near carbon copy of– Odafin Tutuola (Ice-T) on Law & Order SVU. Remember, I’m only reviewing the first episode. Had this show survived longer, I believe there’s a good chance the characters would have shed their stereotypical underpinnings.
I could go on– to say things like how I was impressed enough to watch the series Live!– but it looks like the only place I’ll ever see Made In Jersey again will be…
666 Park Avenue
10:00 pm ET
Having seen nearly all of the new ABC Network offerings this Fall, I need to take a moment to discuss ABC’s different audience. When I was growing up, ABC’s hallmark programming was something called TGIF– a Friday block of family situation comedies that, for the most part, were truly family programs. The humor and stories in these shows worked for every age group precisely because all age groups were represented.
But one show came along and upended ABC’s idea of their core audience: Desperate Housewives. If you look at nearly everything ABC now offers (even their reality shows), they no longer cater to the family as they do the head of the family: Mommy. With only a few exceptions to make sure they aren’t called Lifetime 2, all ABC shows are aimed solely at Women 25 – 50 (the age range of most mothers). So when the horror vehicles Happy Town and The River failed to impress, some programming idiot must’ve thought ABC would need to “Desperate Housewives” their next horror offering. I can’t think of any other reason for the state– or existence of– 666 Park Avenue.
But here’s what ABC Execs failed to realize during the homogenization process: In the age of social media, broadcast companies must work overtime to promote their shows and blast through the clutter. Happy Town and The River didn’t suffer viewership because they were bad; they suffered because no one other than die-hard horror fans knew about their existence. I’ve met people who never knew these two programs ever aired on ABC. Failing to recognize their own failure in this area has led ABC to the edge of an entirely new dilemma: How do you promote a horror show targeted to the same female demographic The Mindy Project femcom is attempting to capture?
I had a feeling this exact travesty was about to be unleashed when I saw a promo for 666 Park Avenue before a movie this summer. Horror is all about facing the darkness in life: Fear, death, the unknown. When a show uses “666″ in its’ title, that’s a signifier to horror fans like “cape” is to superhero fans. You automatically expect more darkness than other shows– if not downright demonic elements. But during the promo, I saw a premise more focused on sexy couples than the devil or the supernatural.
Let’s call it demonic for the moronic.
Watching the actual show is far worse. With horror, a writer’s job is to make terror and dread build throughout the story. Every so often, a little humor and/or sex can be used to relieve the tension caused by horror’s constant downbeat. These elements are a safety valve to keep readers from losing interest and sliding into a sense of overwhelming depression for the story and characters. With 666, we get the exact opposite: Prolonged sensual scenes are peppered with a “spooky” moment here or there. The “horror” here is pointless… Buried under PG-13 “porn” for Mommies.
I wish I could honestly find something redeeming about 666 Park Avenue– as I wanted a decent horror series on Network TV badly. But the “mommy porn” took up so much time in this pilot– there was nothing left for horror. It actually caused me to do the one thing a good television show never does to me: Look away. I finished packing for my trip to Vegas and never looked back for more than 30 seconds at any point. By listening to the dialogue, I know I didn’t miss anything of import. If this happened with me– a person who loves and respects Television as a vibrant and entertaining art form– there is no point in 666 Park Avenue being on the air.
If ABC had been more honest with their ads for this series– primarily by not mentioning the word “horror” anywhere in their promotion– then they would’ve never risked pissing off horror fans like me. This show is extremely irritating. By producing a farce closer in tone to Twilight and labeling it horror, the lives of creative people attempting to bring true horror to both TV and Film have become exponentially harder.