REVIEW: Free Agents – NBC (Wednesday, 8:30 p.m.)

“Free Agents” is a crooked workplace/romantic new comedy from creator John Enbom (“Party Down”) and Emmy Award-winning director Todd Holland (“Malcolm in the Middle”) based on the cult U.K. series of the same name that explores the trials and tribulations of two public relations executives on the rebound. Alex (Hank Azaria, “The Simpsons,” “Huff”) is newly divorced and can barely keep himself together while his co-worker Helen (Kathryn Hahn, “Hung”) thinks she has it together but is obsessed with her deceased fiancé and actually is falling apart. Then a drunken Alex and Helen end up in bed together, and in the resulting sober confusion, Helen decides that they should only be friends. Meanwhile Alex’s co-workers, Dan (Mo Mandel, “Love Bites,” “Modern Family”) and Gregg (Al Madrigal, “Wizards of Waverly Place,” “Gary, Unmarried”), and Stephen (Anthony Head, “Merlin,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) fail in their attempts to help him get back out on the dating scene. When Alex finally agrees to a date, Helen gets a little jealous, and he gets cold feet, so they end up back where they started — in a casual, intimate and beautifully awkward relationship. – NBC

73 out of 100

OK, so we were pleasantly surprised with Free Agents. It’s decent and actually made us laugh more than once.  The characters are well-cast and the writing, although a little clichéd (as the whole premise isn’t particularly new or exciting), is pretty good.  Azaria and Hahn have very good on-screen chemistry and their neuroses and insecurities make them quite relatable.  The show has an excellent pace and a very funny supporting cast that provides  a level of absurdity that brings a Denny Crane-quality to it.

That’s really it. There’s not a whole lot more to say.  Give it a shot, you’ll probably like it.

You can watch full episodes of Free Agents, here.

REVIEW: ‘Revenge’ – ABC (Wednesday, 10:00 p.m.)

Wealth, beauty and status define the people in this town, but one woman is willing to destroy everyone for the sake of revenge.

Emily Thorne (Emily Van Camp) is new to the Hamptons. She’s met some of her wealthy neighbors, has made a few new friends and seemingly blends into the town. But something is a little odd about a young girl living in a wealthy town all on her own, and the truth is that Emily isn’t exactly new to the neighborhood. In fact, this was once her old neighborhood, until something bad happened that ruined her family and their reputation. Now Emily is back, and she’s returned to right some of those wrongs in the best way she knows how – with a vengeance. – ABC

83 out of 100

We were a little nervous about Revenge for a variety of reasons.  One, because as good Catholics who actually did pay attention in class, the glorification of revenge itself is unseemly on its face.  Second, we just weren’t sure if it was possible for the cute girl-next-door, Emily Van Camp, to effectively pull off this type of character and third, the premise of the “evil wealthy people” has been overplayed since the Greek tragedies.  Well, we are pleased to say that those concerns were unwarranted… and that was after one episode.

For us, watching  Revenge reminded us very much of watching Damages in that a dramatic event happens in the opening sequence of the pilot (or season premiere) and then we are told the story of the events that led up to the dramatic event as the series progresses. But, Revenge isn’t just about the events over the course of five months from the time Emily moves into the summer house in the Hamptons, it’s about the history that brought her there to begin with and we are smoothly introduced to those events and the targets for her retaliation through a series a flashbacks that effectively weave the tapestry of the story and develop the characters.

The problem with most shows that do this is that they can be a bit confusing and it scares audiences off because of the concern that if they miss an episode they’ll be completely lost. Revenge does not suffer from these issues.  The producers seem to have gone out of their way to make the flashbacks that provide much of the exposition not only very easy to follow, but the characters themselves repeatedly refer to the events outside of the flashbacks just to make it that much easier.  It all works very well.

This is an amazing cast of characters and actors.  Any qualms we had about the notion of revenge itself over forgiveness is quickly quashed as we see how vile and narcissistic these people truly are and how they sociopathically destroyed (and continue to destroy) people’s lives to protect themselves with not only zero regard for their victims, but a sense of entitlement to this type of power.  They are truly characters you love to hate.  They are above morality and above the law and the writers have made a point to illustrate how this attitude is generational with the children of these socialites who engage in the same behavior, as well.

There’s an interesting scene where the teenage daughter of Victoria (Medeleine Stowe) and Conrad Grayson (Henry Czerny) goes into the local bar and grill and starts ordering cocktails with her friends and the owner’s younger son refuses to serve them because, of course, they can’t produce ID.  Without batting an eye, she says, “Um… we left our ID’s at the beach, BUT… we have plenty of money.” Because, of course, having plenty of money means that not only don’t you have to follow the law, but you can also make other people break the law on your behalf as well.  To further drive the point home, the kid tells the young lady, “Sorry, I’m not interested in your money,” to which she replies, “Are you interested in my phone number?”  The lesson here is that when the rich and powerful want something and they can’t use money to influence people they’ll go after them at their weakest and most basic level.

And this is why you hate all of them because that little scene is a metaphor for all of these characters and you want all of them to get what’s coming to them and you can allow yourself this guilty pleasure of enjoying what we all at one time or another wished we could do. The best part is that not only does Emily not waste any time in surreptitiously tipping over the dominoes that these people have been unwittingly setting up against themselves for years, but she’s doing it in such a manner that she is having them do it to themselves and destroy their own lives in the process.

The complexities of all of these characters is very well-done.  What makes our villains even more vile is that they of course wear the white hats and there are various shades of gray characters that we really don’t know which side they’ll ultimately choose.  Our heroes are the least likely to be heroes and they too have their dark sides, as well, which may ultimately be their undoing, in particular Emily whose father’s final wish for her  before he died was that she forgive these people for what they have done. Emily makes it very clear that she cannot honor that request and that, of course, like all Greek tragedies and Shakespearean melodramas, can only be a harbinger of bad things to come because make no mistake abut it, Revenge is a morality play and we’re all going to be taught a lesson, one way or another.

Revenge has a lot going for it.  We had just a few minor quibbles about the slightly slow pace and the exaggerated and clichéd personalities of some of the characters, but overall, though, we really enjoyed it a lot and we’re hooked already.  We only hope that this show’s serial nature, because it is so refined (OK… we’ll say it: dumbed down), actually clicks with general audiences and they give it the numbers it richly deserves.

You can watch new episodes of Revenge, here.

REVIEW: Whitney – NBC (Thursday, 9:30 p.m.)

Sums up this horrible show perfectly.

A hilarious look at modern love, “Whitney” is a new multi-camera comedy series about Whitney (Whitney Cummings, “Chelsea Lately”) and Alex (Chris D’Elia, “Glory Daze”), a happily unmarried couple. Together for five years, the duo is in no rush to get hitched. However, after attending yet another one of their friends’ weddings, Whitney realizes that she and Alex are dangerously close to relationship boredom. Determined not to let that happen, Whitney consults her close circle of opinionated girlfriends — including Lily (Zoe Lister-Jones, “The Other Guys”) and Roxanne (Rhea Seehorn, “The Starter Wife”) — and then snaps into action. A few awkward sexy costumes and one botched seductive evening later, the couple ends up in the emergency room. Even so, Whitney and Alex realize that while their relationship might not be perfect on paper, they really do love each other — and that works for them. – NBC

0 out of 100

Last year we did a review for $#*! My Dad Says and we declared that it may be the worst sitcom of all time.  There is absolutely no doubt that Whitney is a close second.  It is so bad that we want to spend as little time writing about this floating turd as possible so we’re going to just rehash a lot of that $#*! My Dad Says review and not think because, of course, that’s exactly what the writers of this show did.

Hell, we’re going to just give you our preview assessment that we made back in May, to make it even easier:

“Besides the fact that it’s obviously just a typically horrible sitcom using all of the standard clichés, canned laughter and plot-devices, the overall premise is simply offensive.  We don’t normally get excited about the variety of political and social messages that permeate primetime television programming but we have to draw a line here.  Where the Hell do they get off creating a series with the general premise of disparaging and minimizing the value of marriage as if it’s “no big deal.”  We hate to be the ones to break this to the producers, but marriage is far more than “just a piece of paper” and no, unmarried couples living together for five years should not be afforded the same stature in society as married couples.  Regardless of this, though, it seriously looks almost as bad as $#*! My Dad Says.  All of these characters are clones of Friends characters.  Seriously, that guy, Alex… he’s effing Chandler except he looks like he needs a bath and rehab.  The only joke we laughed at in the trailer was when they were role-playing and she gave him the new patient information forms to fill-out and the only reason that we paid attention to that is that we were completely distracted by her ass in the red panties so unless they intend to dress her in those every week, expect this show to die a quick death. Total Fail.”

…And every word of that initial assessment was so spot-on, there’s not a lot more to say. In fact, we aren’t even bothered by the dopey premise that much anymore (that fu*ker Alex actually said, “I love you so much, that I won’t marry you.”  Seriously, there was a writer who thought that was a good idea and a producer that approved it!) because the show was just so bad and forced on so many other levels that the show simply as a sitcom was offensive without the help from the premise.

The jokes are horrible, predictable, clichéd and recycled as are all of the characters.  We can’t let the actors off the hook, either, because their performances are terrible and like Will Sasso and Nicole Sullivan on $#*! My Dad Says, they should all be banned from television for five years because of this. There was literally nothing funny that happened at all during the pilot. We wanted to stop it ten minutes into it but knew we had a duty to our readers to stick it out. The only reason that live studio audience was laughing was because they were just happy to see the filming of a new show and, again, like the $#*! My Dad Says audience, there is no question at all that they were held at gunpoint.

One final note: do the networks and the producers of these shows have that little regard for their audiences?  They can’t possibly think this garbage is funny so why do they think that we would?  Seriously, is it because of crap like Two and a Half Men  and  Mike & Molly that the networks think we are all completely brain-dead?  That, to us is even more offensive than this horrible waste of 30 minutes.  Thank God, we DVR’d it and only had to go through about 22 of those because every second counted in ending that misery.

MAKE! IT! STOP!

This show is puke-in-your-mouth awful achieving the $#*! My Dad Says Standard of Suckitude©. You can watch full episodes of Whitney, here, but we wouldn’t recommend it, in fact we’d recommend punching yourself in the face repeatedly as a far more enjoyable alternative.

REVIEW: The X Factor – FOX (Wednesday, Thursday 8:00 p.m.)

Simon Cowell returns to FOX in the award-winning international phenomenon The X Factor. This new competition series, hosted by Nicole Scherzinger and Steve Jones, gives viewers the opportunity to help choose the next global superstar or breakout music group. The X Factor judges will travel the nation searching for undiscovered talent 12 years old or over – both solo artists and vocal groups – who are willing to brave the panel for a chance to make their dreams come true. Auditions for The X Factor were held this spring in Los Angeles, CA; Miami, FL; Newark, NJ; Seattle, WA; Chicago, IL; and Dallas, TX. In a departure from other singing competition series, the first time a contestant auditions for judges Simon Cowell, Antonio “L.A.” Reid, Cheryl Cole and Paula Abdul, he/she will do so in front of an audience of thousands – raising the stakes and increasing the pressure to impress not only the judges, but also a potential legion of fans. This will be the ultimate test to prove they have the vocal ability, charisma and stage presence it takes to become a global superstar or breakout music act and win a $5 million recording contract with Syco/Sony Music. Those contestants who survive the first auditions graduate to “boot camp” and will be divided into four categories. Each category will be mentored by one of the show’s judges. Not only is it a competition between the hopefuls to stake their claim for the coveted win, but it’s also a showdown among the judges as to whose acts will dominate the competition and make it to the finals. The judges may have their say in how the competition progresses, but it will be up to America to decide who ultimately has The X Factor. – FOX

90 out of 100

Yes, that’s right, Simon Cowell’s new reality singing competition, The X Factor is absolutely fantastic and we are so glad to see him come back to American television and bring a sense of sanity and a level of legitimacy that’s been missing here for oh, so long. Now, we aren’t just referring the gush-fest that American Idol has become, we’re talking about the entire landscape of talent competition reality series, which frankly have been going downhill for a long time. When Cowell and Abdul left Idol, we knew that was the end.

Folks, before you even say it (because we know you’re thinking it), this is NOT the Fall version of American Idol.  Think of The X Factor as the far more refined, polished and mature version of American Idol.  It’s American Idol if American Idol went to finishing school.

As far as the competition itself is concerned, again, this is not American Idol and there was an interesting exchange between Cowell and Reid where Cowell pretty much had to explain to Reid that this was not American Idol (without coming right out and mentioning American Idol, but you got the point) and that it’s less about the talent and performance that they are bringing to the table today and more about whether or not they can be worked with and fine-tuned into becoming a star, hence it’s about ‘The X Factor.” And thank goodness that Cowell did that, because we in the audience needed that explained to us as well.

If you haven’t seen the premiere, yet, believe it or not, Simon Cowell has become a kinder and gentler Simon Cowell and in fact, Antonio “L.A.” Reid is even more Simon than Simon is.  In the beginning, we thought the less-sarcastic and less mean-spirited Cowell was going to be disappointing but he turns out to be quite refreshing because it’s obvious how seriously he takes this compared to how he took American Idol at the end.  He realized that that show had become a caricature and so was he.  He’s grown up and we have as well.

Geo Godley will not be winning the $5 million recording contract

This time around is completely different. Sure, there’s always going to be the nut-jobs that show up to the auditions and The X Factor isn’t any different than any other show in that they will always give the lunatics airtime, but unlike American Idol where 50% – 75% of the audition shows are dedicated to the William Hungs of the universe, this new series  seems almost embarrassed to even show them.  That being said,  they had no choice but to show Geo Godley who sang a song he wrote himself called, I’m a Stud, and proceeded to drop trou and had his junk hanging out and bouncing all over the place (seriously… it was a moral imperative to show this audition.  Go here to see the whole thing… er… no pun intended). The best part was that it literally made Paula Abdul vomit, which is ironic because a gallon of vodka can’t even do that.  The truth is, though, that you have to show the bad acts on a show like this or there wouldn’t be any dramatic anticipation of whether or not the good acts would get through.

EDITOR’S NOTE: As we suspected, and has been confirmed by TMZ, Mr. Godley wasn’t naked, but was wearing a leopard-print, g-string style bikini.  This of course, explains why he wasn’t immediately arrested, nevertheless allowed to finish his song and do an interview afterward.  So, this really was a lot more P.T. Barnum than anything else.

For the first time watching any of these reality show talent competitions, we just wanted them to blow through the bad acts as quickly as possible because the talent that was showcased was some of the most amazing talent we have seen in years and quite frankly, there were three performers specifically that were better than anything American Idol has ever offered over the past decade.  Here’s the first one, for example, 42 year-old Stacey.

(Alternatively, go here to see the video in case Freemantle gets a bug up their butt and has the YouTube clip removed.  Holy Jeebus, Freemantle via YouTube hit us up with a copyright warning 120 seconds after it was uploaded.  Hey, Freemantle: we’re just giving you a free plug!  A little appreciation is what’s called for, we believe.) 

… And that was just the premiere.  Now if that’s not a reason to become an instant fan of the show, we don’t know what is and that’s the thing about good reality talent competitions; it’s not about the William Hungs or the Geo Godleys that intentionally or unintentionally make fools out of themselves, it’s about rooting for the regular folks that remind us of ourselves and that’s what American Idol and the other shows have lost and that’s exactly what Simon Cowell knows is needed and he brings that to The X Factor in spades.

REVIEW: Unforgettable – CBS (Tuesday, 10:00 p.m.)

Unforgettable stars Poppy Montgomery as Carrie Wells, an enigmatic former police detective with a rare condition that makes her memory so flawless that every place, every conversation, every moment of joy and every heartbreak is forever embedded in her mind.  It’s not just that she doesn’t forget anything – she can’t; except for one thing: the details that would help solve her sister’s long-ago murder.  Carrie has tried to put her past behind her, but she’s unexpectedly reunited with her ex-boyfriend and partner, NYPD Detective Al Burns (Dylan Walsh), when she consults on a homicide case.  His squad includes Det. Mike Costello (Michael Gaston), Al’s right-hand man; Detective Roe Saunders (Kevin Rankin), the junior member of the team; and Detective Nina Inara (Daya Vaidya), a sassy, street-smart cop.  Being back on the job after a break feels surprisingly right for Carrie.  Despite her conflicted feelings for Al, she decides to permanently join his unit as a detective solving homicides – most notably, the unsolved murder of her sister.  All she needs to do is remember.  – CBS


70 out of 100

Well, if you like Numb3rs, The Mentalist or CSI, you’ll like this crapfest, Unforgettable, as well.

Honestly, that’s probably not very fair, though, as there’s nothing particularly wrong with Unforgettable at all, really… provided that you’ve never seen a police procedural before. Unforgettable is just your typical American, cookie-cutter, vanilla, bland police procedural where someone dies in the beginning, the detectives investigate, there’s a couple of suspects along the way and a twist about 45 minutes into it, with a little misdirection and then the real culprit is exposed and in true CSI/Scooby Doo, Where Are You? fashion, they (sans attorney) admits everything and the then lament how they could have gotten away with it.  The only thing that’s missing is, “… And I could have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids (or… police detectives)!”

Add to that, the protagonist with the amazing ability that’s unique, but not supernatural (this is where Numb3rs and The Mentalist come in) and you’ve got the typical police procedural with a twist!  And, oh yeah… the lead’s sister was murdered and that was the one murder she hasn’t been able to solve (expect an arc on that to resolve it quickly if the ratings start to drop) and surprise, surprise she and the male lead have a professional and romantic history from years past in common.

Really, though, it’s fine for what it is and we try not to rate new shows based on our own personal biases against format, hence the higher than expected rating for a show that we don’t particularly enjoy. There’s nothing original about the plotlines of any of this show’s murders-of-the-week at all but we’re sure this will probably be a big hit for CBS because A.) it’s on CBS and B.) this is the type of safe, generic fare that general audiences lap up.

It’s well cast, the performances are fine, it’s shot well, the storytelling is OK (if not entirely original) and the pace is decent, but then again, it’s hard to screw up a show when your playing Police Procedural Mad Libs (and no, it’s no coincidence that the creator of Mad Libs was the late Leonard Stern, well-known television writer and producer).  It’s a good show, but as we’ve noted, dry, formulaic procedurals just aren’t our thing so it won’t be in our viewing stable, but we wouldn’t discourage our readers from watching if they like this sort of thing because we’re sure you’ll enjoy it, but the problem for Unforgettable for us is that it was, well… pretty forgettable.

You can watch new episodes of Unforgettable, here.

REVIEW: Up All Night – NBC (Wednesday, 8:00 p.m.)

From Emily Spivey (NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” NBC’s “Saturday Night Live”) and legendary Emmy Award-winning producer Lorne Michaels, comes “Up All Night,” a modern take on Parenthood that shows the challenges of balancing a career, marriage and a new baby. Christina Applegate (“Samantha Who?”) stars as Reagan, a successful public relations executive, and Will Arnett (“Arrested Development”) plays Chris, Reagan’s supportive, stay-at-home husband. The two have just become parents – a surprise that has set their lives on a new path as responsible adults — for the most part. – NBC

75 out of 100

We had high hopes for Up All Night based on the cast on the excellent trailer we saw and for the most part it hasn’t disappointed.  We think that the series will hit home especially for our generation of parents and it’s one of those shows where either you get it and relate to it or you don’t… and therein lies the problem.

As noted, the cast is strong, the premise is excellent and the characters charming, relatable and likable.  But if you don’t have kids we’re not really sure if this is going to click for you.  So, this may be the first time in the history of prime time Big-5 network television that a sitcom can be categorized as niche.

Will Arnett and Christina Applegate are fantastic and we see so much of ourselves reflected in their characters as we were as new parents that it’s very hard to not become instantly attached to this show. Maya Rudolph rounds out the main cast as an eccentric Oprah-type talk show host who Reagan works for and provides an excellent counter-balance and a good dose of outrageous comic relief.   The only problems we had with the pilot is that all of the good bits from the pilot were all in the extended trailer (Bad, NBC!  Don’t DO THAT!) and it provided a lot less ha-ha then we had hoped for.  That being said, it’s obvious to us that the foundation of this show is strong enough that it can afford an expository pilot episode to the detriment of the humor and we expect it will be much funnier in the episodes that follow it.

So, for right now, it’s certainly a keeper for us.

You can watch new episodes of Up All Night, here, including the Pilot episode, now, before it airs tomorrow night.

REVIEW: The Playboy Club – NBC (Monday, 10:00 p.m.)

From Academy Award-winning executive producer Brian Grazer, “The Playboy Club” is a provocative new drama about a time and place that challenged the social mores, where a visionary entrepreneur created an empire and an icon changed American culture. It’s the early ‘60s, and the legendary Playboy Club in Chicago is the door to all of your fantasies — and the key is the most sought-after status symbol of its kind. Inside the seductive world of the bunny, the epitome of beauty and service, the clientele rubs shoulders with the decade’s biggest mobsters, politicos and entertainers. Nick Dalton (Eddie Cibrian, “CSI: Miami”) is one of the city’s top attorneys and the ultimate playboy, rubbing elbows with everyone in the city’s power structure. With mysterious ties to the mob, Nick comes to the aid of Maureen (Amber Heard, “Zombieland”), the stunning and innocent new bunny who accidentally kills the leader of the Bianchi crime family. Dating Nick is Carol-Lynne (Laura Benanti, “Take the Lead”), a bombshell and established star at the club who knows her days as a bunny are numbered and finds herself continually at odds with Billy (David Krumholtz, ”Numb3rs”), the club’s general manager. Adding to the charm of the Playboy club is Janie (Jenna Dewan Tatum, “American Virgin”), the carefree life of the party who is dating Max (Wes Ramsey, “CSI: Miami”), an overly protective bartender. Also starring are Naturi Naughton (“Fame”) and Leah Renee (“True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet”). – NBC

35 out of 100

Hey, kids, if you want to get the morality police, the feminist groups, the TV watchdog groups, the gay and lesbian groups and the anti-porn groups all together on the same page all you need is this:

And that’s exactly what happened months before The Playboy Club even aired its first episode with a myriad of campaigns and protests from all of these interests under the guise that NBC was promoting pornography.  First, we need to set the record straight:  If you are an adult with at least a high-school education and you think the Playboy brand amounts to pornography, simply put, you are out of your f*cking mind and need to seek professional psychiatric help immediately. We would know.  We have very high standards when it comes to our pornography and what does and does not qualify for the spank-bank. Playboy does not and never has met those very high standards.  On a serious note, and as an aside, it is simply absurd to us that images of the human form that don’t involve closeups of genitalia are concerned pornography and exploitation… and we’re Catholic!

Second, as usual with the morality police and the various special interests, it was much ado about nothing as of course, because it’s NBC, there is nothing remotely close to pornographic on the show… not even a side-boob shot (dammit!).  For crap’s sake, they had to use the term “penis” when one of the girls commented facetiously about the rumors surrounding the size of the main character’s member.  Who the Hell uses the term penis in regular conversation?  We here at The ‘Tastic prefer “crank” and “pecker” but far more meaningful and important than all of the manufactured outrage from the various crybabies is our outrage over how bad this show is.  Simply put, it reaches new heights in suckitude©.

Dull, boring, clichéd, slow, vanilla and… oh, yes… propagandist, as well.  These are the first words that popped into our heads when we sat down and watched the pilot for The Playboy Club. There literally is nothing exciting about this show and the extended trailer is beyond misleading.  We really thought that this could be a great series based on the hype. It now has no chance of happening and to make it worse, they inundated us with ads for the mess-waiting-to-happen on Thursday night, Whitney, throughout the entire episode when we watched it online.

It’s difficult to discuss this show because we have no idea what the point of it is.  Is it a soap opera?  Is it a thriller about the mob and political corruption?  Is it a commentary on the changing social values during the 1960’s?  It is so all over the place and so incredibly – we’ll say it again – dull that we stopped caring about any of it about 15 minutes in.  The writing is dreadful, the dialogue is embarrassing and the characters are incredibly poorly written, clichéd and the performances are beyond uninspired.  We literally feel zero connection to any of these characters and if they all fell into a wood chipper during an episode it wouldn’t bother us at all. Furthermore, the pace is mind-numbingly slow and when they aren’t boring us to death with a whole-lot-of-nothing happening, they’re assaulting us with really horrific musical numbers like it’s effing Glee or something.

What’s even more curious is the propaganda regarding Hugh Hefner that they are trying to spin.  With Hef’s own actual voice-overs, the producers are doing everything they possibly can to paint him as this visionary and revolutionary who single-handedly brought about the cultural and sexual revolution in the U.S. in the 1960’s.  Sorry, Hef, but you weren’t that important then nor will history remember you in that regard.  And not for nothing (and again, we have nothing against Playboy or the pictorials), but Hugh Hefner, himself, as a man and a human being, is and always has been a dirtbag… period, and no amount of propaganda, revisionist history or charity work can change that. Two words for you, folks: Legionnaire’s Disease.  If that outbreak wasn’t a metaphor for Hugh Hefner and the “Playboy Philosophy,” we don’t know what is.  And that’s nothing against, Hef, per se.  He can live his shallow and meaningless existence any way he likes but the producers have no business rewriting the story on him.

On the positive side, the show is decently produced with very nice period sets and the camera work is decent but those factors can’t carry it.  It’s already been officially removed from the TV-Tastic lineup and DVR schedule because it was obvious to us after just one episode that the show can’t be improved upon because you need a strong foundation of plot and characters to improve a show and this mess doesn’t have either of those elements. We all know that you can’t polish a turd and that’s what The Playboy Club is… one stinking, steaming turd.

You can watch new episodes of The Playboy Club, here.

REVIEW: H8R – The CW (Wednesday, 8:00 p.m.)

Celebrities go head-to-head with civilians who hate them to win their “haters” over.  Hosted by Mario Lopez, H8R is from Horizon Alternative Television with executive producers Lisa Gregorisch-Dempsey (“Extra”), Jeremy Spiegel (“Extra”) and Mario Lopez. – The CW

30 out of 100

So, we have to admit that this show had us for about ten minutes because, well, any segment involving Snooki is invariably funny for a variety of reasons.  One, she actually is very quick-witted and has excellent comedic timing and two, you never know what nutty thing Snooki being Snooki will result in.  And true to form, Snooki was very funny and her hating, non-celebrity counterpart was equally as funny right out of the gate, as well.  And that’s when the whole ridiculousness of the premise of the show catches up with it and it falls off the cliff.

Full Pilot Episode

Let’s talk about that premise, shall we?  It’s a little more than The CW’s description would indicate.  If it was just about the “celebrities” (and we use that term loosely however we are sad to see that Eva Longoria is officially a has-been) confronting their anti-fans because if it was (as we were led to believe during the first ten minutes), that would be a show worth watching provided they cast it with characters like Snooki and her hater.  It would be like watching a show that was comprised up of nothing but bad American Idol auditions with only Simon Cowell in the room.  Great idea, right?  Well, we can only dream, apparently, because the real premise has far more to do with the nobody-celebrities kissing the asses of the bigger-nobody anti-fan as they try to win them over and make them change their low opinions of them.  The result is an hour-long program that seems like an episode of Blind Date without the awesome pop-ups and animations.

The biggest problem with the show is that it’s a complete contrivance and one big “Why The F*ck?” 

  1. W.T.F. do the celebrities give a crap about one dopey person’s opinion of them?
  2. W.T.F. do the “haters” care so much about celebrities to begin with that they go so far as to dedicate a portion of their life to their hate for celebrity-X?
  3. W.T.F. as an audience are we supposed to care about any of this?

The producers of this show obviously didn’t think about any of the above considerations before pitching this and obviously the geniuses over at The CW didn’t either when they greenlit it for their Fall Prime Time lineup but the odd thing about it is that despite the problems mentioned, God help us, the show actually could work if they had anyone that knew a damned thing about casting for reality shows working on the production team.

One of the main ingredients to the success of any scripted show is how well the characters relate to the audience and how well the actors can make those characters come alive and relate to the audience. There is no difference with reality shows, however with reality shows, the actor and the character are the same person and it’s far more complex to find a person that’s not only a good relatable character but a good performer as well. This show sucks at doing this and they tricked us with Snooki and her hater because we know she can pull it off and, like we said, for ten minutes so could her hater counterpart. But the truth is revealed about how stupid and bad this show is with the Jake Pavelka segment where he shows himself to be as exciting as a pile of wet newspapers and the hater is possibly the most annoying twenty year-old brat ever on the history of television. She may spawn her own series, H8R H8R’s where TV-Tastic readers spend an hour complaining about the stars of the show H8R despite that the fact they don’t know the haters and the haters have zero influence on their day-to-day life.

And holy crap, who’s brilliant idea was it to make this show an hour long?  The longer you drag this show out the more of an opportunity the audience has to come to their senses and realize how bad it is and it is really bad.  What seemed like funny jabs in the beginning (the hater referring to Snooki as a “drunk donkey” was pretty funny, we have to admit) quickly becomes mean-spirited and uncomfortable and there’s only so much an adult audience can take of it as it gets very stale.

We recommend passing on this and we don’t expect it to survive past mid-season up against The X Factor.

You can watch new episodes of H8R, here.

REVIEW: New Girl – FOX (Tuesday, 9:00 p.m.)

A new comedy series from executive producer and writer Liz Meriwether (“No Strings Attached”), NEW GIRL features a young ensemble cast that takes a fresh look at modern relationships.

After a bad break-up, JESS DAY (Zooey Deschanel) needs a new place to live. An online search leads her to a great loft…and three single guys she’s never met before. But Jess moves in, and through her unique sense of self and the support of her new roommates, she learns to move on.

Of her three new male roommates, NICK (Jake Johnson) is the most grounded…and also the most jaded. A law school dropout, he spends most of his time hiding under his hoodie and tending bar. SCHMIDT (Max Greenfield) is a hustling young professional who’s pretty proud of his own abs. WINSTON (Lamorne Morris), is an intensely competitive former athlete who doesn’t know what to do next-but whatever he does, he wants to win it.

In the pilot episode, Jess also meets COACH (guest star Damon Wayans Jr.), a personal trainer with a bit of an anger problem, who’s subletting a room.

Rounding out the group is Jess’ childhood best friend, CECE (Hannah Simone), a model with a killer deadpan. As their relationships progress, these five realize they need each other more than they thought they would and end up forming a charmingly dysfunctional – or strangely functional – family. – FOX

65 out of 100

Welcome to The ‘Tastic’s first new show review of the Fall, 2011 season. Due to the incredible number of new shows and potentially quality shows this fall season, we are going to be making this Fall’s reviews a lot shorter than we have in the past unless it’s a show that really just blows our socks off and needs further examination.  Unfortunately, as cute as FOX’s New Girl is, it doesn’t quite fall into that category.

New Girl really isn’t anything new.  The premise has been done a million times before and although it certainly has its moments, it’s not bringing that much to the table.  We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: we hate sitcoms and it really takes a lot for us to be excited about them.  In our FOX new show preview we noted that New Girl didn’t look absolutely horrible and actually looked rather endearing.  We also noted that it looked similar to TNT’s My Boys.  Well, we were right on all counts.  The show is charming, if not exceptionally consistent or funny and as far as the My Boys comparison is concerned, New Girl is kind of like the TNT show in reverse with the female lead in this series being overly emotional and rather subservient and weak.

The male characters are OK, if not particularly well-developed but they are very clichéd. The style of the show is quite familiar as it is similar to Raising Hope, Breaking In, Community and The Middle with regular cut-scenes to flashbacks to provide some humorous back-story, character development and exposition.  Now, we normally enjoy shows that do this because it usually provides the audience with a quick laugh but in this case, the cut-scenes just aren’t particularly funny.

The entire pilot was very up and down for us, having moments that were genuinely funny and then whole segments that bored the crap out of this, however, Zooey Deschanel is always quite sweet and likable and the performances by the supporting cast were at least serviceable.  New Girl has the potential to be a good series but it was kind of slow coming out of the gate for us and that can spell disaster for a new Fall show and it has some heavy competition against it in the Tuesday, 9:00 p.m. timeslot (might have been a better programming decision to schedule the more established Raising Hope as the lead-in instead of vice versa).  We’re going to give it three or four episodes before we decide whether or not it gets a permanent spot in our viewing lineup and we suggest that you do the same.

You can watch new episodes of New Girl, here, including the Pilot episode, now, before it airs tomorrow night.

Happy 45th Birthday, Star Trek! (Big Announcement!)

First, the big news! Star Trek turns 45 today and to honor its legacy, The ‘Tastic will be dedicating an entire section of the blog to individual Star Trek episode reviews, ‘Tastic-style, beginning in November!  Stay tuned! 

On September 8, 1966, television history was made when Gene Roddenberry’s idealistic vision of a future without war, poverty, or racism, where mankind worked together to solve its problems and better itself, appeared on our television sets and changed the course of television and science fiction history forever.  Spawning five live-action series, one critically acclaimed animated series, 11 feature films, thousands of novels, comic books, video games and billions of doallrs in merchandising and a dedicated fandom like no other over the course of almost half of a century, as Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura) put it in the Roger Nygard documentary Trekkies, Star Trek truly is our 20th century mythology and now is still going strong into the 21st century.

Part 1 of the Documentary Film, Trekkies.

The franchise has had its ups and downs with audiences and even from before the first episode, The Man Trap, was aired, it faced opposition from television executives whom although enjoyed the original pilot, The Cage, starring Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike, thought it was “too cerebral” for a general audience.  At this point Star Trek made its first bit of television history being the only show to ever have a second pilot ordered for it. Hunter refused to film a second pilot and the role was subsequently re-written and re-cast with William Shatner playing the role of the captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, Captain James Kirk.  Lucille Ball’s production company, Desilu Studios, produced the second pilot, Where No Man Has Gone Before, and the rest is television history.

Part 1 of the first aired episode The Man Trap

As an aside, Jeffrey Hunter sadly passed away in 1969 from a cerebral hemorrhage after suffering two strokes a the age of 42. Imagine how the most recognized television franchise of all time would look today had Hunter not turned down the role in the second pilot.

Star Trek lasted on the air for three seasons and only so because of a massive fan campaign spearheaded by the legendary Bjo Trimble.  NBC wanted to cancel it after two but they were inundated with letters and studio protests and they greenlit the show for one more season.  Unfortunately, the slot they chose for it was 10:00 p.m. on Friday night which all but assured there would not be a fourth season.

Star Trek found new life again in syndication and if you ask most fans that grew up or went to college during the early to mid-1970’s they’ll most likely tell you that this is how they were exposed to it.  What’s unique about the franchise is just how many of the actors and production staff that have been on the subsequent series and in the films over the years that were actually fans going back this far.  Star Trek’s success in syndication planted the original seeds for bringing the franchise back in one form or another and eventually led to the critically acclaimed and award-winning Star Trek: The Animated Series in 1973 which featured all of the original cast members with the exclusion of Walter Koenig (Ensign Pavel Chekov).

Star Trek The Animated Series Opening Theme Music:

With the success of the brand in syndication, the continued popularity among the fans who would regularly attend conventions by the thousands year after year, a very popular and well-received animated series, Paramount, in 1975, decided to bring back the Star Trek franchise in the form of a major motion picture.  They then switched gears and decided that they not only wanted bring the franchise back on the small screen and update it, but they wanted it to be the flagship for their new fourth network to air in 1978.  When the plans for the network folded, all filming and production on Star Trek: Phase II ended but a funny thing happened that kept the franchise alive; a little film you may have heard of called Star Wars.

Am I crazy or is that Steven Spielberg in the backgorund?

Following the incredible success of George Lucas’ epic masterpiece, Paramount, like every other studio in Hollywood at the time, wanted to capitalize on the popularity of the science fiction space epic, and realized they could accomplish this with the Star Trek franchise, so the proposed pilot episode of Star Trek: Phase II, In Thy Image was recommissioned for feature film treatment and in December of 1979, Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released in theaters.  My dad actually took me to see TMP when I was four years-old and I still remember it. Ironically, he’s not a Trek fan and I only became one 18 years later.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture, despite receiving lukewarm critical reception (I still refer to it as Star Trek: The Motionless Picture due to it’s incredibly long and drawn out special effects scenes. It’s great for going to sleep at night to, I’ll tell you that much.) and going extremely over-budget from $15 million to $46 million, was an unqualified success bringing in $139 million at the box office (roughly $412 million in 2011 dollars… put that in your pipe and smoke it, J.J. Abrams!) with fans going back to see the film multiple times.

The original cast of Star Trek would go on to do five more feature films and of course a new Star Trek series set 100 years after the original series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, would debut in 1987, last for seven seasons, become the highest rated syndicated television program in history, have four more major motion pictures made with that cast and spin-off three more television series and in 2009, Roddenberry’s original vision was re-imagined with J.J. Abrams’ blockbuster film Star Trek, the eleventh Star Trek film featuring a whole new cast of young actors reprising the legendary roles of the original cast from the original, iconic series.

So, what is so special about Star Trek that it has not only endured but still continues to find success, generation after generation, despite being written off for dead on more than one occasion?  Why is Star Trek so universally loved by such a diverse audience of people, many of whom wouldn’t consider themselves science fiction fans, per se? The easy answer that everyone throws out is always that it gives us “hope” which I believe is clichéd tripe.  The concept of “hope” is certainly an element in Trek, as it is in most Science Fiction stories but Star Trek has been so much more than that for so long.  Star Trek is about adventure, it’s about looking forward into the unknown and it’s about examining ourselves today and trying to figure where we’re going in the future. But most importantly, Star Trek is about the stories of the characters and how we, as the audience, relate to them.  These are timeless concepts in epic storytelling that know no generational bounds.

Ready to Boldly Go… With The Good Guys.

As I noted, my dad took me to see Star Trek: The Motion Picture when I was four years old and as for myself, I’ve been watching Star Trek with my own kids since the day they were born.  My five year-old daughter is very interested in Seven of Nine and the whole concept of the Borg on Star Trek: Voyager. She also loves any episodes involving Naomi Wildman because, even at five, it’s about relating to the characters and she also has always loved Star Trek: The Animated Series to the point where she wouldn’t fall asleep without it between the ages of two and three. My two year-old son who overheard me explaining the characters on Voyager in the most simplest terms of “good guys” and “bad guys” to my daughter, now points to everything related to Star Trek and says, “Good guy!”

Now, I know at the end of the day, that my kids’ interest in Star Trek at this very young age has very little to do with understanding what’s going on in the show and far more to do with just wanting to take in interest in what Daddy likes, but this is something that we’re always going to have.  It’s like baseball.  It doesn’t matter what happens, at the end of the day we’ll always have our little escape and something to talk about.  That is something that you cannot put a price on and as my friend Santos Ellin, Jr. said regarding my son’s interest in Trek, “Never let him lose that magic Shawn, it keeps you young and it’ll do the same for him. Never let his imagination falter,” and that folks is what it’s all about;  the magic of Star Trek, and it’s that magic that has inspired so many people over the years. Roddenberry passed away in 1991, but there’s no doubt that his legacy will live on for generations to come.

Think it’s just the nerds that like and have been inspired by Star Trek?  Well, yeah… I guess we are a big part of the fandom but here’s an abbreviated list of famous people (mostly non-nerds) who are known to be confirmed Trekkies.

  • Angelina Jolie
  • Tom Hanks
  • Seth MacFarlane (had a cameo on Star Trek: Enterprise)
  • Whoopi Goldberg (played Guinan on Star Trek: The Next Generation, lobbied for the role.)
  • Eddie Murphy
  • Rosario Dawson
  • The late former President Ronald Reagan
  • President Barack Obama
  • Buzz Aldrin (and just about any astronaut)
  • Mel Brooks
  • General Colin Powell
  • Robin Williams
  • Ben Stiller
  • Dr. Stephen Hawking (had a cameo on TNG)
  • Former Vice President Al Gore
  • Christian Slater (his mother, Mary Jo Slater was the casting director for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and cast him in a cameo role and he has his personal replica of Kirk’s Captian’s chair in the ofcie set of his show, Breaking In.)
  • Mira Sorvino
  • Megan Fox
  • Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper
  • Dr. Marvin Minsky
  • George Lucas
  • Kelsey Grammer (had a cameo on TNG)
  • King Abdullah II ibn al-Hussein of Jordan (had a cameo on VOY)
  • Jason Alexander (had a featured guest starring role on the episode of VOY, Thinktank)
  • Bryan Singer (had a cameo in Star Trek: Nemesis)
  • Mila Kunis
  • Mick Fleetwood (had a cameo on TNG)
  • Quentin Tarantino
  • South Park’s Matt Parker and Trey Stone
  • Karl Urban (played McCoy in Abrams’ Star Trek, pursued the role when he heard about the film being made.)
  • Freema Agyeman of Dr. Who and Torchwood fame
  • John Barrowman of Dr. Who and Torchwood fame
  • Candace Bergen
  • Daniel Craig
  • Kevin Sorbo
  • Robert Carlyle
  • David A. Goodman (Family Guy executive producer. Wrote the Star Trek themed episode of Futurama, four episodes of ENT)
  • Tom Morello of (had a cameo on VOY)
  • Brad Paisley
  • The late Frank Sinatra (claimed he never missed an episode of TNG)
  • Jimmy Buffet
  • Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • The late Isaac Asimov
  • Dr. Daniel J. Levitin
  • Chris Jericho
  • Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (had a cameo on VOY)
  • The late Dr. Randy Pausch
  • The late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Tom Bergeron (had two cameos on ENT)
  • Sir Richard Branson (named his spaceships the VSS Enterprise and the VSS Voyager)
  • Natalie Portman
  • Tommy Lee Jones
This post is dedicated to the memories of Gene Roddenberry, Majel Barrett Roddenberry, James Doohan, DeForest Kelly and the biggest Trek Fan I ever had the pleasure to meet, Captain Eddie Chiullan.

Captain Eddie Where He Belongs... In the Captain's Chair. God Speed, Eddie.