Harry’s Law (NBC – Monday, 10:00 p.m.)

Emmy Award-winning writer/producer David E. Kelley (“Boston Legal,” “The Practice,” “Ally McBeal”) weaves his rich storytelling into a new legal dramedy starring Academy Award winner Kathy Bates in the title role – about how people can embrace the unexpected and other curveballs that life can throw at them.

Harriet “Harry” Korn (Kathy Bates, “Misery,” “About Schmidt”) doesn’t believe things happen for a reason, but she discovers that they sometimes do. A curmudgeonly ex-patent lawyer, Harry is abruptly fired from her blue chip law firm, forcing her to search for a fresh start. She finds it when her world unexpectedly collides, literally, with Malcolm Davies (Aml Ameen, “Kidulthood”), a kind-hearted college student who desperately needs Harry’s help with his pending court case, and he subsequently goes to work for her.

Harry soon finds her balance as well as new offices in an abandoned shoe store just as legal hotshot Adam Branch (Nate Corddry, “The United States of Tara,” “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”) accidentally hits her while driving. Inspired by Harry’s no-nonsense understanding of the law, Adam decides to take leave of his shiny corporate firm to go and work with her. Harry, Adam and Malcolm – unlikely but kindred spirits – along with the help of Harry’s shoe-savant assistant, Jenna (Brittany Snow, “Hairspray,” “American Dreams”), are now ready for whatever walks in through the doors of their unique establishment – Harriet’s Law and Fine Shoes. – NBC

4 out of 10

Now, you would figure with the cleverly proposed premise and Kathy Bates and David E. Kelley on the marquis, Harry’s Law should be one of the most refreshing new shows of the spring.  I mean, how could they screw this up, right?  The answer is simple and really should have been expected: David E. Kelley.

We really, really wanted to like Harry’s Law and it almost sucked us in… until it morphed into Boston Legal 30 minutes into it.   Please don’t mistake this, it’s not kind-of like Boston Legal because it’s a David E. Kelley show, it’s the exact same frakking show except that this time Kelley figured that it was probably not a good idea to use a TV show as a pulpit for left-wing proselytizing and right-wing bashing when the evangelists are a bunch of uber-wealthy, Boston elitists.

Instead, we now have Harriet Korn (Bates) a well-respected Cincinnati patent attorney who decides that she’s bored of patent-law and goes on a mission of self-discovery that eventually puts her into a crime infested neighborhood that seems awfully clean and in fact it seems a lot like a Universal back lot.  Here she will now practice criminal law (which she has absolutely no experience in) and fight for the poor, downtrodden, misunderstood and those generally abused by the system.

Like Boston Legal before it, you have to suspend your disbelief with the speed of the legal process and the absurdity of the courtroom antics and you also have to suspend your disbelief that a 20 year-plus veteran patent attorney can now be taken seriously as a criminal defense attorney.

No, what kills this show and why it went from a “7” in our book to a “4” from the first half hour to the second is that it suffers from the exact same problems that Boston Legal did when it ended.  Kelley seems obsessed with preaching to the audience his brand of politics, not understanding that by doing so, he’s alienating at least half of his audience.  Conservatives sure as hell don’t want to hear it and Independents don’t want to hear it either and it’s why Boston Legal only got five seasons whereas its predecessor, The Practice got eight seasons.  We left it halfway through season four and there’s only been one other show that we’ve ever committed to that we left before its series run was over (Heroes).

The Practice, although it definitely had its share of issue-oriented shows, was never preachy.  It didn’t need to be.  The drama was compelling and thought-provoking in and of itself on a weekly basis without the need for anyone to tell the audience how to think politically. What we can’t figure out is what happened with Kelley.  Is it just an issue of hating the Bush Administration so much that he decided that all of his projects would now be propaganda outlets?  We could care less either way what anyone’s personal politics are but when it comes to scripted drama on television, no one wants to be lectured to.  Kelley should know this by now and NBC should have figured it out after the Jimmy Smits legal disaster-of-a-show Outlaw.

The only reason we’re not giving this show lower than a “4” is because there is hope for it and the only thing it needs to be enjoyable is to get rid of the political crap.  The performances are solid and the characters are generally likable.  Will they drop the political crap?  It’s doubtful that they will because Kelley has become an absolute egomaniac with his projects and even if they did dump the politics, it will be too late because we expect audiences to abandon it long before that. We believe Kelley is about to learn a valuable lesson about what you can experiment with and what you can’t when a show hasn’t built an established audience and we expect Harry’s Law to not be renewed for a second season in May for Fall 2011.

Watch full episodes of Harry’s Law, here.

Lights Out (F/X – Tuesday, 10:00 p.m.)

Lights Out, from Executive Producer/Showrunner Warren Leight (In Treatment), stars Holt McCallany (CSI: Miami) as an aging former heavyweight boxing champion who struggles to find his identity and support his wife and three daughters after retiring from the ring. Financial problems leave him at a perilous crossroads – battling the urge to return to boxing or reluctantly accepting a job as a brutal and intimidating debt collector. Catherine McCormack (Braveheart) co-stars as “Theresa Leary,” Lights’ wife who is finishing her medical residency; Pablo Schreiber (Law & Order) as “Johnny Leary,” Lights’ brother and business manager whom Lights put through college; and Stacy Keach (Fat City) as “Pops,” Lights’ father and former trainer who runs the boxing gym owned by Lights. Clark Johnson (The Shield, The Wire) and Norberto Barba (In Treatment, CSI: NY) directed the pilot episode. Series Creator Justin Zackham (The Bucket List), Phillip Noyce (Salt) and Ross Fineman are also Executive Producers. Lights Out is produced by Fox Television Studios and FX Productions. – F/X

10 out of 10

All we can say is that we’re a little punchy after watching that pilot and the second episode of Lights Out.  F/X, who we consider the HBO of basic cable, has done it again.  Lights Out, without a doubt, is the best new show this spring on television (so far), be it network or cable.

There are so many things good with this show that it’s kind of hard to pin down exactly why we like it in 500 words or less.  First, let us warn you that this isn’t the television version of The Fighter or Rocky Balboa and in fact, the boxing aspect of Lights Out, although certainly the foundation of the show, seems more incidental than anything else.  Patrick “Lights” Leary could have been a famous baseball player, singer, movie star… whatever… and it wouldn’t really matter as this is a character driven story about the rise and fall of a public hero who’s only goal, now is to take care of his family.

Leary is a very likable and relatable character and reminds us of exactly how we would react if we were the father of three (God, help us) daughters. He would do absolutely anything he could to protect his family which in the pilot includes getting into a street-fight with a loud-mouth former football player behind a bar for cash and acting as an “collection agent” for the local Irish mob boss, Brennan, to deal with a “client” that owes Brennan $500,000. These two situations have very big twists in them and serve as exposition for the man that Leary is and the an he has to be.

Since we’re on the subject of HBO, Lights Out seems like it really would be more appropriate on that network as it feels more in the vein of The Sopranos or The Wire, but then again, this is the network that brought us the raw, hard-hitting epics The Shield and Damages so F/X has proven that it knows how to handle good drama.

***Sigh***

If only Lone Star would have found a home on F/X instead of FOX but, we digress.

Lights out is a TKO and we highly recommend it. If you’re a fan of good serialized drama and complex characters, you will love this show.

Watch full episodes Lights Out, here.

See… We Told You So. J.J. Abrams: “I’ll Start Drinking More,” No Upside To Fringe On Fridays

Fringe Returns on Friday January 21, 2011 at 9:00 p.m. on FOX

We did a piece back in December regarding the Fringe move to Friday nights in which – and we see no reason to sugar-coat this – we spent the majority of the piece, bashing (albeit justifiably) FOX for its treatment of scripted programming in general, its propensity to panic and banish a show to Friday nights for the purpose of letting it die and to, by virtue of their irresponsible programming decisions, cause the premature cancellation of quality programming.

We also explained that while were inclined to accept the fact that Fringe would be moving to Friday nights and this most likely signaled the end to the series (FOX or any other network can do whatever they want), what we could not tolerate was the self-righteous spin coming from FOX (specifically in the promo trailer below) which attacked other blogs and commentators far more reputable than The ‘Tastic who are well aware as we are of FOX’s history regarding scripted programming and in particular, genre programming, who dared to suggest the same thing that we did.

What particularly bothered us was not the issue of FOX calling out highly reputable sources such as Collider, Ain’t It Cool News, and IGN…  that’s fine.  When a media outlet is wrong or publishes commentary that is scurrilous with nothing to back it up, it’s completely justified.  The issue we had was that of FOX trying to pretend that they have no history of doing exactly what these outlets suggested and mocking them for the suggestion and leaving the false impression on the fans that they should pay no attention to the man behind the curtain because they of course are going to fully support Fringe on Friday night… just like they do all of their scripted programming they put there!

We took A LOT of heat for that piece by FOX gushers suggesting everything from we didn’t know what we were talking about, to we’re just making things up and our favorite, at least FOX gives Sci Fi and genre a chance as none of the other networks do (which is absolute nonsense).

So, as the weeks have progressed, there has been more and more propaganda spewed by FOX and by their willing accomplices in the media about how much support they are giving to Fringe. Outlets such as the folks at TV Line seem all to happy to not only believe FOX, but to promote their spin as if it should be believed, in particular Matt Webb Mitovich and Entertainment Weekly’s Michael Ausiello.  From Mitovich’s January 11th piece:

Fringe‘s move to Fridays, which takes hold on January 21, is looking more and more like a really terrific thing.

Not only has Fox been promoting the heck out of the time-slot change, but Fringe‘s new “under the radar” home apparently has opened the door for even freakier storytelling.

Noting that Fox “has always been pretty cool” about letting Fringe push the envelope, series creator J.J. Abrams tells TVLine that said envelope’s seams have achieved outrageous new levels of elasticity.

From Ausiello’s piece from January 18th:

In a major blow to the argument that Fox is banishing Fringe to Fridays to die, a new piece of evidence has emerged that strongly suggests the network very much wants the show to succeed in its new, challenging time slot: A fancy outdoor advertising campaign touting the show’s new Friday perch!

The fancy investment of $5,000.00 on a billboard which obviously means that FOX is fully supporting Fringe.

Well, we guess that completely shoots holes in our perspective and that of the rest of the other skeptics, right?  Well, not really.

You see, in an interview with Collider’s Christina Radish on January 12th, J.J. Abrams himself had a bit of  different take on the Friday move for Fringe than the FOX talking heads and the propaganda pushers at TV Line.

J.J. Abrams... He'll be drinking more.

Radish: How do you feel about the move to Friday nights for Fringe?

ABRAMS: Oh, I’m horrified beyond belief, but as a fan of the genre and the show, I’m hoping that fans will tune in. I certainly can promise that it will be worth their while. The episodes that are coming up are spectacular. I guess you can just be hopeful and say that, if the work is good enough, it will find the audience. I think they’re doing better work now, even in the second half of Season 3, than they’ve ever done on the series. I’m just crossing my fingers that fans of the show, show up.

Radish: Do you see any upside to the change in nights?

ABRAMS: Just in that I’ll start drinking more. No, I don’t see an upside because the audience on Friday nights is harder to find. But, that’s not to say that they aren’t there and that we might not be able to make it there. Certainly, I would be lying to you if I said I’m thrilled about the move. But, what I am thrilled about is that the network has been incredibly supportive and, despite its move to Friday, they’ve been nothing but encouraging of the show. It’s still on the air in its third season, and it’s not easy to do that. It’s not easy to get to Season 3 of anything. They’ve allowed the show to become truly great, I think. The question is, will audiences find a great show on Friday nights? I pray that they do.

Well, surprise, surprise!  J.J. Abrams has the exact same opinion of the move to Friday for Fringe that we do.  The only difference is that he’s more polite when discussing the show’s relationship with FOX than we are, because after all, they’re still paying the bills.  Like  J.J.,  we are also horrified and we see no upside to this move but we do sincerely pray that it does find success… but we doubt that it will.  The reality of it is, as Abrams knows, that if FOX truly had faith in Fringe and wanted to support it, they never would have moved it to Friday night to begin with.

Fall 2010 Post-Game Wrap-Up (Thursday)

Welcome to part four of the mid-season 2010 – 2011 review. In this post we’ll be discussing Thursday’s programming.

8:30 p.m.

CBS – $#’! My Dad Says

Well, it certainly is $#’!-ty. After watching one episode of $#’! My Dad Says we determined that not only is the worst show of the new season, the worst sitcom we’ve ever seen but perhaps even the worst show in television history. Just to show that we were fair and objective, we endured three more episodes of this awfulness… our opinion has not changed.

It’s currently a bubble show right now which makes us lose all faith in humanity that anyone is watching it but CBS did cut short the episodes it ordered for the Spring so hopefully this will go away by May.

If you haven’t read our review of $#’! My Dad Says we highly recommend it as we consider it more of a community service than a review… like an intervention for people addicted to bad TV.  Read it here.

NBC – Community

Community is still one of the better sitcoms on television (there are only a handful) and currently it’s a toss-up between whether or not NBC will renew it for a third season. In our estimation, it should be renewed if for only the reason that it’s been relatively consistent on Thursday nights and there’s nothing on the sitcom horizon for NBC in the near future. We hope so. It’s the type of show you can turn on and just laugh at because of its ridiculousness. It’s one of our two Thursday Night guilty-pleasure. The second one is, of course…

9:00 p.m.

The CW – Nikita

We love Nikita and we really shouldn’t because it’s a mediocre bordering on terrible show. But it’s over-the-top campy goodness is something that keeps us coming back for more every week. The premise is beyond ridiculous and the performances are almost silly but there’s so much “pew, pew, pew” that we can’t stay away from it.

There’s another reason why we have a soft spot for this puppy and it’s not because Maggie Q (Live Free or Die Hard) looks incredibly hot in a bikini. It’s because we heart The CW. A show like this could never survive on major prime-time network but The CW and it hearkens back to the late 90’s with UPN when they would take chances on shows like The Sentinel, Nowhere Man and our personal favorite 7 Days.

These shows, like the shows on The CW can thrive on very small audience numbers compared to the other major networks. There is no chance that camp like Nikita could ever survive anywhere but The CW and for that we are thankful for The CW. There is only ONE show that will not be renewed (that isn’t in its planned final season) on The CW next year (Life Unexpected). That’s just awesome.

NBC – The Office

Well, we’ve been concerned about this for a longtime but it’s official: The Office just isn’t as funny as it used to be and it has run out of steam. It’s still enjoyable but it’s not nearly as funny as it used to be. It’s really jumped the shark as evidenced by the fact they are resorting to revolving around another sitcom (the Glee viewing party episode). C’mon, now.

We’re still watching because it certainly has its moments, and actually, the aforementioned Glee episode was pretty funny although we cringe at the concept in principle. That being said, no one has anything to be concerned about because it’s certain to be renewed for next Fall.

9:30 p.m.

NBC – Outsourced

Outsourced is one of the most disappointing shows this season but it’s not because it’s a bad show. It’s cute and it’s clever but it’s a sitcom trying to be funny and it’s really not. We pointed out in our review that the problem is that the novelty of the culture clashes and funny accents only works for about ten minutes, yet Outsourced is an entire series that revolves around those gimmicks.

A couple of months ago we saw the 2006 film of the same name and we realized that there’s a reason why the film doesn’t translate to a sitcom: the film wasn’t a comedy to begin with. Yes, there was humor to it but he film was really a character driven story about how despite different cultures may be, we’re really not all that different after all. Sitcoms don’t work with the touchy-feely any more like they did in the 1980’s where there were a bunch corny jokes and Alex P. Keaton and Vanessa Huxtable learned a valuable lesson at the end of every episode. Audiences today want their sitcoms to have the most laughs possible during the course of 21 minutes and that’s really what it’s about it.  Whatever lessons are to be learned are secondary.  Outsourced the series, like the film, is focusing more on the valuable lessons with the comedy as an afterthought.

If we’re going to watch a sitcom, we want it to be funny. Outsourced unfortunately is not. It’s currently leaning toward “the-more-likely-to-be-renewed-than-not” category but we doubt audiences are going to continue to tolerate it until May.

Next, we take a look at Friday’s programming.

‘The Cape’ (NBC – Monday, 9:00 p.m.)

“The Cape” is a one-hour drama series starring David Lyons (“ER”) as Vince Faraday, an honest cop on a corrupt police force, who finds himself framed for a series of murders and presumed dead. He is forced into hiding, leaving behind his wife Dana (Jennifer Ferrin, “Life on Mars”) and son, Trip (Ryan Wynott, “Flash Forward”). Fueled by a desire to reunite with his family and to battle the criminal forces that have overtaken Palm City, Vince Faraday becomes “The Cape” – his son’s favorite comic book superhero – and takes the law into his own hands.

Rounding out the cast are James Frain (“The Tudors”) as billionaire Peter Fleming, The Cape’s nemesis who moonlights as the twisted killer Chess; Keith David (“Death at a Funeral”) as Max Milani, the ringleader of a circus gang of bank robbers who mentors Vince Faraday and trains him to be The Cape; Summer Glau (“Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”) as Orwell, an investigative blogger who wages war on crime and corruption in Palm City; Dorian Missick (“Six Degrees”) as Marty Voyt, a former police detective and friend to Faraday; Martin Klebba (“Pirates of the Caribbean”) as Rollo, member and unassuming muscle of the circus gang of bank robbers; and Vinnie Jones (“Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”) as Scales, resident thug and cohort of The Cape’s nemesis Chess. – NBC

7 out of 10

*Sigh*

Let’s us start by saying that the relatively high rating that we’ve given The Cape of a “7” is a very qualified “7” and we kind of had to convince ourselves that it was worth the rating. The problem for us in reviewing The Cape is despite its glaring flaws and no matter how much we wanted to give it a rating of about a 5 or 6, we kept coming back to the fact that we really liked it. That being said, if it starts getting stupid, we reserve to take back that VERY generous rating.

Here’s the thing about The Cape: it’s exciting, it is literally a comic book come-to-life, and it’s very well-produced. The problem is that there is nothing original about it at all.

EVERYTHING is a conglomeration of other comic book/superhero and genre story lines and to make it worse, it rips-off elements from the more modern incarnations (see: Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, Christopher Nolan’s Batman, Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, The Punisher, Robocop, Superman and, yes, even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles… to name a few). Now, we’re not suggesting that they use these elements badly, but it’s such an obvious copy-and-paste that you can’t help but notice and cringe… a lot. Hell, they even ripped-off Heroes which would seem like a bad idea considering that NBC just canceled that show.

(Extended Trailer)

Now, that’s the biggest issue with The Cape. The other more irksome issue is the absolute ridiculousness of the action sequences and the visual effects. They are way over-the-top and go beyond the level of, “Well, we’ll just have to suspend our disbelief.” We are personally sick and tired of standard bullets from sub-machine guns and pistols causing fuel tanks explode. Has no one in Hollywood watched Mythbusters?  The only way to make a fuel tank explode into a massive fireball is with with incendiary rounds…. and a FRAKKIN’ mini-gun.

Oh, and one more thing: a human being cannot survive a fall out of a 50 story building by using a car to break their fall. Do you now see why these sequences irk us?

Beyond those problems, though, we hate saying this but this show is a crap-load of fun and has a lot of potential to be one heck of a ride week after week if audiences are patient with it. The characters are pretty are well-developed and the performances are strong and believable and there’s enough complexities with them to flesh out some compelling story lines. It has more the feel of a summer blockbuster than it does a weekly prime-time drama.

What hurts The Cape is the aforementioned lack of originality. On its surface it doesn’t bring anything new to the table and this generation of audience is a fickle lot with genre in prime time. The Cape has a lot of potential to be a great show. Let’s just hope it becomes a great show that people want to tune in to.

Watch full episodes of The Cape, here.

Fall 2010 Post-Game Wrap-Up (Wednesday)

Welcome to part four of the mid-season 2010 – 2011 review. In this post we’ll be discussing Wednesday’s programming.

8:00 p.m.

FOX – Human Target

Just as good this season as it was last season, unfortunately, it’s doing worse in the ratings than it was during its first season averaging about a 1.8 among 18 – 49 year-olds and it was on thin ice last season. Normally that’s not good enough to get renewed so this it’s currently a bubble show leaning toward not being picked up. As noted, Human Target, is one of our favorite shows and it’s a shame that it hasn’t caught on as much as we would have hoped.

Normally, this is the point in the program where we dump on FOX for canceling a show without giving it a chance to establish an audience and not appreciating what a lousy network they really are and that other than American Idol, they really shouldn’t expect any higher audience numbers than 5 – 10 million for any scripted but we can’t really go there yet because the show hasn’t been canceled.

That being said, those issues are exactly why Human Target failing. FOX has no consistency with its schedule and there is no reason (read: no consistent lead-in) for anyone to tune in. Their shows are all over the schedule and they are constantly replacing the lead-ins with no rhyme or reason.  Of course, we would love to see Human Target be renewed for a third season but that it highly unlikely at this point so we are hoping that at least the series can end with an actual series finale.

NBC – Undercovers

We liked J.J. Abrams’ Undercovers… A LOT. Unfortunately, that opinion was shared by us and about seven other people in the country and it was canceled in November.

9:00 p.m.

ABC – Modern Family

Well, no sophomore slump here.  Modern Family is even funnier (as if that was possible) during its second season than it was during its first and we say funny, we mean laugh-out-loud, pause-the-damned-DVR-to-catch-your-breath funny. It’s one of the highest rated shows on ABC and has established itself as a permanent fixture on Wednesday nights.

10:00 p.m.

ABC – The Whole Truth

This was a pretty crappy show and it really wasn’t a surprise that the show was canceled after four episodes. Jerry Bruckheimer has gone to the well one too many times and its evident with the two shows he developed this season: NBC’s Chase and this mess. We admit that we were a little bit kinder in our review with The Whole Truth than we probably should have been but there was a method to that madness.

You see, we here at The ‘Tastic try to be as objective as possible when we review shows and we recognize that this type of formulaic, safe, procedural does appeal to a large portion of the viewing audience. That being said, just because we don’t like the style, it isn’t a reason to rate a show lower thane we would otherwise. Apparently, though, it really didn’t matter because audiences hated it regardless of our objectivity.

CBS – Blue Bloods

Now, you’re probably saying to yourself, “Waitaminute, TV-Tastic… The Defenders is on at 10:00 p.m. on Wednesday nights on CBS, not Blue Bloods… what’s going on here?” Well, we of course have the answer. On December 21st, CBS announced that it would be moving Blue Bloods to Wednesday night to Wednesday nights on a “trial basis” and permanently moving The Defenders to Friday night at 8:00 p.m. two weeks after the series finale of Medium.

As we noted back in September, it appeared that the networks were going to be looking to Friday night prime-time as legitimate night of scripted television programming instead of just a night for news magazines, reality shows and a dumping ground for struggling programs.  Unfortunately, it would appear that this little experiment has failed and one needs simply to look at CBS (the most popular of the networks) to see this.

In the past three months we’ve seen the perennially consistent Medium canceled, CSI: NY struggling and the critically acclaimed new series Blue Bloods averaging around 13 million viewers on Friday night but failing to break a 2.0 rating with 18 – 49 demographic.  At the same time The Defenders has had very disappointing numbers on Wednesday night at 10:00 p.m. so they obviously aren’t rewarding the show by putting it on  Fridays.

So, again, the experiment has failed, and that’s O.K.  It was nice to see the networks seriously try to shake things up on Friday nights but sometimes these things don’t work out.  That being said, this move can do nothing but help Blue Bloods which we feel is the second best show on television this season only behind HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.  As noted, the numbers on this show have been outstanding and the 18 – 49 rating can only improve being on Wednesday night instead of Friday.

After the four-week trial, CBS will put the Criminal Minds spin-off show, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior in the 10:00 p.m. slot which basically means that CBS is giving Blue Bloods the opportunity as a headliner before deciding its fate.  What this basically means is that if Blue Bloods does impressive numbers over the four-week trial period, CBS will find it a new permanent home with a better time slot during the week and order more episodes (and a second season) but if it doesn’t do any better than it did on Friday it’s going to probably get dumped right back there and not be renewed.  We are obviously rooting for the former because, as noted in our review, Blue Bloods is a fantastic show.

F/X – Terriers

On December 6th, F/X announced that it was canceling the poorly rated, though critically acclaimed private-eye series, Terriers.  As we noted in our review, Terriers was a very enjoyable show and its cancellation, though obviously necessary with audience numbers of 500,000 and a .2 rating among 18 – 49 year-olds, is unfortunate.

NBC – Law & Order: Los Angeles

This is one of the worst shows of the season and anyone who tells you different is lying.  As noted in our review (and preview) it’s an example of everything that is wrong with the Law & Order franchise and why Law & Order and law & Order: Criminal Intent were both canceled and why it’s questionable whether or not Law & Order: SVU will be coming back next season.  Currently, LO:LA is a bubble show but we are actively rooting for its cancellation to make room for some something that is… you know… not crap.

Next, we take a look at Thursdays.

Fall 2010 Post-Game Wrap-Up (Tuesday)

Welcome to part three of the mid-season 2010 – 2011 review. In this post we’ll be discussing Tuesday’s programming.

8:00 p.m.

 

ABC – No Ordinary Family

We’re sad to say that as much as we were excited after the pilot of No Ordinary Family, the show has turned out to be, well, pretty ordinary and it’s suffering in the ratings because of it. In our review, we noted that one of No Ordinary Family’s greatest assets was the focus on the Powells as a family. Well it’s turned out that this aspect of the show is becoming its greatest liability. This is supposed to be a live-action Incredibles which means at the heart of the series, it should be a superhero show first. It hasn’t worked out that way. This show is far more focused on the dysfunctional nature of the family and each character’s individual neurosis than it is in crime-fighting.

To make matters worse, they go through this charade every week about how “it’s too dangerous to use these new powers so we won’t use them” and then they go ahead and use them. That’s getting pretty stale and it’s frustrating for audiences because it’s like they haven’t come up with a premise for the show, yet. Are they crime fighting superheroes or what?

The next problem is Michael Chiklis and not him per se, but the casting of him in this role of police sketch artist, Jim Powell. In the beginning we felt that his talent and presence would carry this show, but again it’s not working out that way  because of how the character is written. To put it bluntly, we don’t mind sensitivity in a male character, but Mrs. Powell has more balls than Jim. We can’t remember the last time we saw a protagonist as completely emasculated as Jim Powell and it’s even more striking considering Chiklis’ last lead role on The Shield. Quite simply, Vic Mackey needs to grow a pair.

It’s not looking good for No Ordinary Family in the ratings and based on that alone it would be unlikely that it would be picked up for a second season, however, No Ordinary Family is no ordinary show. It’s an ABC Studios production and is the personal pet-project of Disney. Despite the low ratings, it is entirely conceivable that No Ordinary Family may get at least a second season to sort out its issues.

We still like the show and because it hasn’t had any kind of real serial arc, it is much easier to fix the problems in the show going forward and save it than it is to save a show, for example, like The Event without a massive overhaul.

CBS – NCIS

In its eighth season, NCIS is as good now as it has been in the past several years and it is still one of the highest ranked dramatic series on television for that reason. Not much more to say than that.

FOX – Glee

*Sigh* It pains us to say this, but Glee has become a victim of its own hype. The musical numbers are still wonderful but the show itself has become so exaggerated and unbelievable that we aren’t even watching any more. Prime example: we tuned in on a whim the other night to watch the Christmas episode and here is the premise that we were supposed to buy:

Exceptionally nerdy kid in a wheelchair is dating cute blonde cheerleader, Brittany… who (and I’m not kidding) still believes in Santa. So, the Glee Club takes her to the mall – together… because they can’t take a dump without each other – to sit on black Santa’s lap (and mind you, a black Santa who was wearing his beard off of his face) and Brittany comments on how tan he is and asks him for her boyfriend to be able to walk for Christmas.  Santa says, “OK.”  Meanwhile, at the Batcave, Sue has rigged the “Secret Santa” event and put her name on every slip of paper in the empty protein shake container. It gets better: We are also treated to an ever-so- slightly creepy rendition of Baby, it’s Cold Outside by the gay kid and another gay kid he’s pining for that is sure to be a hit with the NAMBLA crowd and to top things off, at the end of the episode the aforementioned nerdy kid has a pair of robot legs from Israel waiting under his tree and nobody knows where they came from! Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!

So basically, the show has gotten ridiculous but it doesn’t seem to care because they are walking on water right now after their breakout surprise success last year and can pretty much do what they want. We believe that they have jumped the proverbial shark but via stealth and no one has noticed yet.  Although the show is incredibly popular right now (it is FOX’s highest rated scripted show) and will certainly be renewed for a third season, we believe that when it crashes it will crash hard and suddenly because audiences are going realize that they’ve been watching a, if not horrible, at least very silly show for a while.

Glee completely lacks the heart it was known for in its first season and the only really positive aspect of the show in its sophomore season was the GQ photo spread the cast appeared in.

The ‘Tastic would like to say to all of our male readers in advance, “You’re welcome.”

SyFy – Caprica

The Battlestar Galactica prequel failed miserably during the second half of its first season for many reasons and was cancelled with five episodes remaining. It was certainly a show we liked, but we get why it failed. We did an analysis of its demise, here.

9:00 p.m.

 

CBS – NCIS: Los Angeles

When we’re wrong, we admit it. We started watching NCIS: Los Angeles this season because we promised we would. We’ve watched the first three episodes in the last week and I have the rest on DVR and we are impressed. It’s a lot more compelling and complex than it was in the beginning of last season (when we stopped watching) and the characters have actually become likable. This is good for this franchise because it’s using all of the elements that have made the original NCIS so successful. The audience numbers for this show are phenomenal so you can be sure that there will be a season three.

FOX – Raising Hope

Another case of admitting when we were wrong with this one. As noted in our preview and subsequent review, Raising Hope is a surprisingly funny and charming show. It’s officially a bubble-show at this point so it could go either way for a second season.

SyFy – Stargate Universe

The watered-down version of Battlestar Galactica meets Star Trek: Voyager has also been canceled. SGU wasn’t a particularly bad show, it just wasn’t a particularly good show and it wasn’t nearly as good as the other series in the franchise. Sorry, SGU, but you really won’t be missed.

10:00 p.m.

 

ABC – Detroit 1-8-7

In yet another example of we here at The ‘Tastic admitting when we were wrong, as noted in our review, Detroit 1-8-7 has been a pleasant, if not completely original, surprise. Yes, it’s a formulaic cop show that rips off its style from every cop procedural that’s aired in the last 20 years and yes there are a handful of cringe-worthy, eye-rolling clichéd moments in every episode but overall, the stories are compelling and the characters are pretty well-written if not all fleshed out yet.

We are particularly impressed with Michael Imperioli (Life On Mars, The Sopranos) as Detective Louis Fitch and although this is an ensemble cast, Imperioli steals the show. We couldn’t be happier as Imperioli is an excellent actor and it’s not only nice to see him in a lead role but it’s particularly nice to see him as something more than a foul-mouthed gangster. Nothing against The Sopranos, but we feel that it’s pigeon-holed a lot of fine actors who have found little success since the series ended in 2007.

Unfortunately, though, Detroit 1-8-7 is on the ropes right now and will probably not be renewed for a second season.

Next up, we take a look at Wednesdays.

Fall 2010 Post-Game Wrap-Up (Monday)

Welcome to part two of the mid-season 2010 – 2011 review. In this post we’ll be discussing Monday’s programming.

8:00 p.m.

FOX – House

Not a whole lot to say about House. If you’ve been following the show, you understand what’s going on this season with the storyline so it really doesn’t need to be expanded on. House continues to be the most reliable and stable fare offered on FOX for good reason; a great lead character, a strong supporting cast that brings out the best in the main character and fairly original compelling stories. I’m not a fan of medical procedurals but House continues to transcend that genre. House will certainly be renewed next Fall and expect to see reruns on Friday nights at 8:00 p.m. as the lead-in to new episodes of Fringe.

NBC – Chuck

It pains us to say this but, unfortunately, Chuck has either lost what it once had or you can only take a gimmick so far. The problem as we see it with Chuck is that it’s a show that’s confused about what it’s trying to be and audiences, I think, are starting to notice this and are equally confused.

The premise behind Chuck of part comedy, part action/spy thriller was cute and fun for the first couple of seasons but the problem is that now, into its fourth season, the producers still haven’t been able to effectively combine the two premises and develop one cohesive identity for the show. It’s like you’re watching two different shows at all times and because of this it can’t seem to find any really compelling focus for audiences to latch onto. That, on top of its predictability, means that it’s just not working for The ‘Tastic anymore. Chuck, honestly has been on borrowed time since its first season and we find highly unlikely that it will be renewed for a fifth season. We still like Chuck, we just wish it would grow up and it doesn’t show signs of doing so.

9:00 p.m.

FOX – Lone Star

As predicted here on ‘The Tastic, Lone Star was destined for the early cancellation bin before it even aired. We just figured it would last a little longer than it did. FOX, in typical pants-pissing fashion, dropped this very well-conceived and well-received show after a mere two episodes. It should have been a clue that it was going to be canceled shortly after the pilot episode aired when FOX referred to it as its “new smash hit show.” Way to go, FOX, you murdered a great show… again.

And the worse part is that it wasn’t even necessary. It should never been on Monday nights to begin with and we question the prudence of airing it on FOX to begin with thinking it could have thrived on F/X with a 12 episode season as its seemed it was tailor-made for that network which has found success with similar drama. Again, another fine example of how awful FOX is as a network for scripted television.

FOX – Lie to Me

There’s a reason why The ‘Tastic didn’t include Lie to me in the Fall Preview: we just don’t like it. And it’s a shame as well because we especially like Tim Roth and the rest of the cast, but the show does nothing for us. It’s a dry and predictable, formulaic, detective procedural that tries to be hip with the premise of the show being that they “detectives” in this case are private behavioral experts who are called in by authorities and private individuals to act as human lie detectors. Meh. It’s no different from any other procedural and it’s just as predictable and unoriginal despite the gimmick. It’s not horrible but not worth being in our lineup by any measure. We’re quite surprised that it’s lasted as long it has considering that it’s on FOX but it’s a bubble-show right now and it would seem unlikely to be renewed for the Fall and knowing FOX, it could be suddenly canceled at any time in early 2011.  We really don’t care, though.

NBC – The Event

Here’s the thing about The Event: the show is on life-support at this point and it’s completely unnecessary. We still stand by the contention that it’s one of the best new shows on TV but we are backing off the contention that we made that is the second best new show on TV and if we were to review it today, instead of the admittedly generous 9 out of 10 we gave it after the premiere of the pilot, we would probably rate it a 7 or 7.5 at best. Read our post here about what’s wrong with The Event and the five steps that need to be taken that we think can save it… we hope.

10:00 p.m.

CBS – Hawaii Five-O

We’re still loving Hawaii Five-O but we are a little disappointed that it hasn’t taken the serial route that we thought it would in the pilot. Still though, that might actually be a good thing as it is becoming harder and harder to attract new audiences with serialized television (even though we love serialized shows) and if they had gone that route it might have spelled an early end to what really is a very fun series. There’s nothing particularly different from this than other police procedurals aside from the very well-developed and likable characters and the high-intensity action. As we noted, the funny man/straight man routine not only works incredibly well between Alex O’Loughlin (Steve McGarrett) and Scott Caan (Dan “Dan-o” Williams), but what’s really clever is that they often switch roles in that routine. The story lines are pretty compelling and as original as one can be with this type of show, with the occasional twist thrown in for good measure. The formula is working which accounts for the high ratings and sure bet that it will be renewed for Fall 2011.

NBC – Chase

We hate Chase as noted by our review, here. It was one of our least favorite shows of the new season and we are thrilled that it’s done so absolutely miserably in the ratings and is destined for cancellation. Serious piece of crap show and it should be noted, that all of the worst scripted new dramas are or were all on NBC (Chase, Law & Order: Los Angeles and Outlaw) and only Law & Order: Los Angeles has a chance at survival.

Next up, we take a look at Tuesdays.

Fall 2010 Post-Game Wrap-Up (Sunday)

It’s that time of year again, folks.  The time where we come together to say good-bye to an old year and we usher a in a new one.  At TV-Tastic, it’s also the time of year where we review the Fall 2010 television lineup, tell you what was good, what sucked and everything in between and why as well as where all of these shows are going to be in the new year (if they haven’t gotten canceled already).  Keep in mind that it’s only the stuff we watched for the most part so not every piece of schlock is in here.  So let the games begin.

Sunday

8:00 p.m.

FOX – The Simpsons

We gave up on The Simpsons around 2000 because frankly, it had gotten to the point where they were abusing the social commentary satire that they were famous for and basically began preaching and not being funny.  The biggest problem really was that strayed away from the old format of filling every obscure situation with a good joke.  That being said, we’ve been dipping our toes back into the Simpsons water for the last couple of years and we have to say that this season is one of the funniest in a very long time.  It is as brilliant and original in this its 22nd season as it was during its first ten.  They’ve brought back everything that made The Simpsons great and we love it.

8:30 p.m.

FOX – The Cleveland Show

We have to be honest: we don’t like The Cleveland Show.  We think it’s incredibly poorly written, a poor rip-off of Family Guy and ridiculously exploits racial stereotypes with little-to-no comedic value.  We’re still trying to figure out why Cleveland Brown was given his own show to begin with.  The random Cleveland appearance on Family Guy was always funny but the character was never written to be a major presence even on that show so why would the producers think setting him or any secondary character up with their own series is a good idea?  The only positive statement we can make about Cleveland this season is that it is slightly funnier than it was last season, but we seriously don’t know if you can call going from a 1 to a 3 on a scale of 10 an accomplishment.   Anyway, apparently we’re the idiots because FOX has already renewed it for another season.  Waitaminute… this is FOX we’re talking about, after all.  Maybe we’re not the idiots after all.

9:00 p.m.

FOX – Family Guy

We’ve been devoted fans of Family Guy since its pilot episode on Fox in 1999.  Needless to say, we were heartbroken when it was canceled by the idiots at FOX in 2002, and subsequently rejoiced when it was resurrected again in 2005 (thank you, Cartoon Network).  When it first came back after the hiatus, we were kind of disappointed as it just didn’t feel like the same show.  The jokes weren’t as funny, weren’t as fast and more importantly, the musical numbers had all but disappeared and any true fan will tell you, the musical numbers were what made old-school Family Guy so damned good.

After a couple of seasons of kind of boring us to death (with the exception of a few standout episodes) there was something else that we picked up that was really starting to bug us:  Family Guy was becoming very mean-spirited with their jokes.  Now, Family Guy has never shied away from controversy and we’ve never had a problem with the shock-value material, but some of this stuff was just downright awful, alienating and again, very mean-spirited.  Old-school Family Guy, as controversial as it was, was NEVER mean and it didn’t have to be because the material stood on its own.  It was becoming very clear to long-time fans and objective viewers that Family Guy was resorting to these tactics because the writing frankly wasn’t that good and they knew it.

Near the end of the 2007 – 2008 season, we had decided that as much as we didn’t want to do it,  we were going to remove Family Guy from DVR schedule in the Fall of 2008 if we didn’t see marked improvement.

We can honestly say now that we’re certainly glad we gave Family Guy a chance because like The Simpsons, Family Guy began to go back to what made the show great and left the mean-spiritedness behind.  The show has gotten progressively better over the past two seasons (with more musical numbers to boot) and this season is one of the funniest in history.

We normally just erase shows immediately after watching them off the DVR but Family Guy has become so good again that you literally have to watch an episode at least twice to catch the jokes you missed the first time around because you were laughing so hard and so long at one joke that the next one blew right by you.  THAT is what Family Guy was all about.  This season’s episode, Excellence in Broadcasting guest-starring (of all people) Rush Limbaugh may be the funniest episode in the history of the series… I’m not kidding.   It’s definitely up there with the greats such as Wasted Talent, Petarded and PTV.  We don’t care if you love Limbaugh or hate him, if you can’t appreciate how brilliant that episode is, you should not be watching Family Guy.

Watch that full episode here.

Here is one of the funniest scenes ever done on Family Guy from the episode Baby, You Knock Me Out, again, from this season and available in its entirety here.

HBO – Boardwalk Empire

We did a review the night after the series premiere of Boardwalk Empire where we proclaimed that it was the best show on television (the review can be read here.).  After watching the entire first  season there is absolutely nothing I would change about my analysis of this series, it is the best show on television… period.  That being said, as ana aside, there is something that I have noticed on the series for some time now that viewers really should be aware of.  The show isn’t completely historically accurate.  In the aggregate, yes, the overall story is true, but many of the nitty-gritty details have been dramatized… A LOT.  For example: there’s a whole storyline about Warren G. Harding’s mistress who had his baby.  In reality, this story of the mistress and the baby was a rumor that was never historically confirmed yet Boardwalk Empire puts it into the storyline as if it were fact.  We have no problem with creative license, but there should be full disclosure especially from a fictional show that revolves around actual historical figures.  Just sayin’, is all.

Showtime – Dexter

Well, Dexter has officially gone 24 on us.  Allow us to explain:  After four seasons of improving storylines, 24 had its masterpiece season in season 4.  The problem is that there was absolutely no way the producers could ever top that season so the next three seasons seemed disappointing by comparison.  This is exactly what happened with Dexter in season 5.  Season 4 of Dexter with John Lithgow as “The Trinity Killer” was one of the best seasons in television history and had one the best shock-finale of any series in recent memory and that hurt season 5.  The anticipation was so built-up because of season 4 that this season, although very good, was a bit of a let-down and nowhere near as satisfying as season 4.  We still love the series and we can’t wait until season 6 airs but the fans need to understand that season 4 was the defining season and its never going to get any better than that.

9:30 p.m.

FOX – American Dad

American Dad has been the one consistent bright spot in the FOX ‘Animation Domination’ lineup on Sunday night. The show is absolutely hilarious and every now and then they throw in an episode that completely breaks from the sitcom fare and goes into the column of “epic event.” If you’ve seen the Christmas episode from season five Rapture’s Delight, you know what we’re talking about.

Unfortunately, it seems as if American Dad is always on the list of shows to be canceled each year and this season is no different. I blame the time-slot and usually I would just say “don’t worry, it will be picked up next year,” but this year we were a little concerned because of the mid-season replacement, Bob’s Burgers looked VERY funny based on the sneak-preview we saw on the Family Guy: It’s a Trap! Blu-Ray. That being said, FOX has had a history of trying to upset the apple cart in recent years on Sunday night and it hasn’t worked. Besides the fact that none of the shows they’ve tried to knock off American Dad with have been very good, I think audiences have gotten very comfortable with American Dad and though its audience numbers haven’t been as huge as Family Guy, they’ve been consistent.

Also, now that we’ve had a chance to see Bob’s Burgers, we think it’s safe to say that it won’t be around long.  Read the full review of Bob’s Burgershere.

Next, we take a look at Mondays.

Bob’s Burgers (FOX – Sunday, 8:30 p.m.)

BOB’S BURGERS is a new animated series about a man, his family and a burger joint.

A second-generation restaurateur, BOB (H. Jon Benjamin) is a dreamer with big ideas about burgers. Despite his greasy counters, his lousy location next to a crematorium and the occasionally spotty service, Bob is convinced his burgers speak for themselves.

Bob’s wife, LINDA (John Roberts), supports Bob’s dream through thick and thin, but has some dreams of her own. Their oldest daughter, TINA (Dan Mintz), is a 13-year-old hopeless romantic with minimal social skills. Middle child GENE (Eugene Mirman) is a self-described musician, class clown and all-around entertainer. Their youngest, LOUISE (Kristen Schaal), is the most enthusiastic about her dad’s business, but her imagination and scheming make her somewhat of a liability in the kitchen.

The restaurant is situated in an eastern seaboard town, complete with an oceanside amusement pier called Wonder Wharf. Next door to BOB’S BURGERS is the It’s Your Funeral Home and Crematorium – owned and operated by Mort the Mortician, one of Bob’s most faithful regulars. And across the street is Jimmy Pesto’s, Bob’s main competition and one of the many thorns in Bob’s side. – FOX

3 out of 10

We had very mixed emotions going into the series premiere of Bob’s Burgers.  On the one hand, we’re always excited about a new animated series on FOX (yes, it’s the one thing we like about FOX at this time) and this one genuinely looked VERY funny based on the sneak-preview we saw on the It’s A Trap! Blu-Ray but on the other hand, it’s been a poorly kept secret that FOX has been trying to replace American Dad since about the second season and Bob’s Burgers would be in all likelihood, the heir-apparent.  We really are not sure why FOX treats American Dad like the proverbial red-headed step-child, either, but they always have. The audiences numbers haven’t been as big as Family Guy, however, they have been good enough and consistent over the last six seasons to keep FOX from just arbitrarily dumping it like the do with so many other of their shows.

That being said, it’s with a heavy heart and overwhelming joy at the same time that we declare this:

BOB’S BURGERS SUCKS.

There… we said it… and we want our readers to realize this before they start investing a whole bunch of time into this dopey show expecting the show to become enjoyable.  It’s not going to happen.   The jokes are lame and incredibly dated and it’s really just a whole bunch of recycled crap from other prime-time cartoons with a smattering of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim comedy thrown in for good measure.  The truth is that if they couldn’t pull off more than three good jokes in the premiere, it’s never going to happen.

Another thing about this is that there’s really nobody likable or relatable on this show except for maybe Bob himself.  His wife, Linda, reminds of Pickles Oblong from the short-lived WB series, The Oblongs, without being funny or endearing. All three of the kids are just a bunch of gross weirdos and the writers just keep jumping back to these gross/weird kids in an attempt to exploit their grossness/weirdness into a joke.  It’s not working at all as it’s all very predictable and you just wind up a little more grossed-out.  To give you an idea about how predictable and unoriginal this show is, they actually did a “Whatever-you-do-don’t-touch-that-red-button” joke.  Pure, puke-in-your-mouth, suckitude©.

Believe us when we say that we really wanted to like Bob’s Burgers, despite what the ramifications of a high-quality animated show on FOX means to the fate of American Dad.  We really tried. We’re firm believers in letting the best show win at the end of the day and its self-defeating to root for a show to suck, even if it means losing another beloved show.

We even brought Mrs. ‘Tastic in to watch this who normally stares through the television like she’s trying to see the hidden image of the sailboat like in one of those ‘Magic Eye’ pictures whenever one of our shows is on.  She confirmed our worst fears when she said at the end, “Was that supposed to be funny?”  Then we contemplated turning on MTV’s Teen Mom to make us feel better about our lives after having to sit through Bob’s Burgers.

So, in the end, the downside is that Bob’s Burgers is really not very good at all but the upside is that it looks like American Dad may have dodged the FOX bullet for yet another season and for that… we rejoice.

And before anyone starts talking about how Bob’s had the highest rated season premiere of any new show this season, keep in mind that the show was heavily promoted by FOX and oh, yeah… it had the benefit of having an NFL wild-card game as a lead in. We would not expect similar numbers next week because we simply find it impossible for anyone who watched that mess to think it was good enough to tune in to a second time.