Category Archives: Television

Fall 2012 Pilot Review: The Mob Doctor


Premise: Tough-talking surgeon Grace Devlin (Jordana Spiro) makes enemies wherever she goes. People at work find her domineering. She’s insensitive towards her mother. And, oh yeah – the mob is kind of after her. Specifically, they’re after her brother, whose unspecified dealings have landed the Devlin family in their debt. So, when an enemy of the mob lands himself in Grace’s operating room, they call in a favour. And it’s up to Grace to decide whether or not she wants to take them up on it.

My expectations going in: Low. I’m not a fan of medical dramas (the surgery scenes make me queasy). And while I am a fan of crime dramas when done well, they’re usually pretty hackneyed.

My thoughts: This is a solid if uninspired entry in the network crime drama oeuvre. The problem is that we also have cable shows like Homeland and Breaking Bad that cover similar territory in a much more unique and nuanced way.

Let’s start with the good. Grace is an interesting character. There are layers there that could definitely be developed as the series goes on. And Jordana Spiro is a unique, charismatic actress who’s never really gotten her due, aside from the surprisingly long-lived My Boys. If The Mob Doctor gets the chance to develop, she could definitely go to some interesting places with this character. Even in this pilot, there were some hints of complexity that I wasn’t expecting. None of the other characters feel nearly as well-rounded yet, but I suppose that would come with time.

The writing is decent. It’s nothing great, and there were certainly some clichéd lines of dialogue that wouldn’t fly in a better show. But things moved along at a good pace, and it was all engaging enough. It’s definitely possible that this show pulled out a couple too many stops and surprises (a car chase!) in the first episode. But if they can build on that, it could become a worthy thriller.

It’s also worth noting that this show has a surplus of handsome brunette dudes. One such dude is Zach Gilford. I am a diehard Friday Night Lights fan, so I root for pretty much everyone in that cast to make it in a post-FNL world. And though it is a little strange to see Matt Saracen talking about hymens and strutting around the O.R. in scrubs, Gilford does a nice job playing Grace’s boyfriend. Of course, his character will inevitably find out about her dealings with the mob. And given the morally questionable decision he made in this pilot episode about a patient, I imagine he might be persuaded to come along for the ride. Other handsome brunette dudes in this episode were far less memorable, though I kind of like that the writers only showed us a little bit of Grace’s brother and left us guessing about him.

The Mob Doctor (which has a really stupid name, by the way) was more compelling than I expected. It all feels very competent, and I even felt the suspense that they were going for in certain moments. But pretty much everything about the show, from the acting to the direction, felt just adequate. Not bad, but not great. It even has the standard-issue TV drama score. The pilot occasionally hinted at bigger and better, but ultimately, it just felt like the kind of crime thriller we’ve seen too many times before.

Chances of Survival?: Not great. I give it about ten episodes before it gets cancelled. The public seems to favour star power and/or soapy storylines in their network dramas, and I don’t think this one will keep their interest.

Will I watch again?: Probably not. I enjoyed the pilot well enough, but it’s not really my thing. It seems like it’ll probably maintain a fairly high level of intrigue and suspense, but that it’ll do so in some fairly expected ways.

C+

Fall 2012 Pilot Review: The New Normal


Premise: David (Justin Bartha, The Hangover) and Bryan (Andrew Rannells, Girls) are a 30-something couple seems to have it all – a loving relationship, successful careers, and a nice house. But when the two decide to have a child through a surrogate mother, things begin to get complicated. They face judgement from several people, they confront their own doubts about their fathering abilities, and they must decide who will be the biological father of the child.

My expectations going in: Medium-low. I’m a big fan of Bartha, and I thought Rannells was great as Hannah’s gay ex on Girls, but the ad campaign put me off. Showing them both as pregnant men was kind of silly and lazy, and it seemed like a cheap tactic to appear “zany”. I half-expected one of them to give birth to a hoagie sandwich in the pilot.

My thoughts: It certainly wasn’t a great pilot, but it was a pretty solid start to the show. They did a good job establishing John and David as a loving, likeable couple with little fuss. Both Bartha and Rannells were charming and funny in the pilot, and they were very convincing as a couple. The fashion-savy, sharp-tongued character of Bryan really walks a fine line in terms stereotype, but I think there’s enough shades in the characterization and Rannell’s performance to duck cliché. Bryan is also strong, confident, and funny – and that’s never a bad thing for a television character to be. Bartha, on the other hand plays a bit more of the straight-man (so to speak), and I already really like his matter-of-fact, slightly neurotic gynecologist character a lot.

I also appreciate the show’s relative frankness (considering it’s on a major network) about gay relationships. These guys aren’t Cam and Mitchell from Modern Family. They kiss, they cuddle in bed, and there’s a palpable sexual attraction between them. It doesn’t feel forced, or like it’s there for “shock value”, and it actually adds to the show’s believability.

And I’d be remised if I didn’t say that this episode had some pretty funny moments. Ryan Murphy is one of the creators, and the pilot at times felt reminiscent of Glee’s edgy-ish first season. Ellen Barkin provides a lot of the humour as the bigoted grandmother of the woman who becomes David and Bryan’s surrogate mother. Who wouldn’t want to watch Ellen Barkin deride someone for his “ridiculous Fozzie Bear impression and self-diagnosed narcolepsy”?

However, the pilot definitely had its problems. Tonally, it was a little bit all over the place. It ranged from broad, over-the-top humour at times (not all of which worked), to attempts at more legitimate drama. I like the fact that the show wants to take a somewhat serious approach to exploring these guys’ relationship, and their doubts and insecurities. And I don’t think that part is bad (though the writing could be a bit stronger). I think they just need to find a way to make those dramatic moments feel a bit more believable with the rest of the show.

Also, the show takes a pretty moralistic approach to the whole idea of a gay relationship. In the pilot alone, David and Bryan face several people who look down on them because they’re a same-sex couple. And I don’t mean to minimize that inequality. Many gay people do face judgement on a regular basis, of course. But I am also hoping the show will decrease its focus on that negativity. First of all, it already got repetitive in the pilot, because I feel most humour involving ignorant, closed-minded people can really only strike one note. And secondly, I don’t want their “gayness” to become the characters’ defining trait. If the show wants people to accept that this type of relationship is the standard for the “new normal”, they should probably not have other characters constantly point out how strange and unnatural they think that relationship is. I think as long as the show finds a balance in tone, though, it’ll be fine.

Chances of Survival?: I predict it’ll make it to a second season If NBC is still propping up Whitney and Up All Night, they probably won’t just toss a Ryan Murphy comedy to the side. It’s already got complaints against it from certain groups, but I think there’s enough charm to pull it through the season.

Will I watch again?: Yes, I’ll give it at least a couple more episodes. Overall, I thought it was pretty good for a sitcom pilot, and I’m interested to see where the relationship between Bryan and David will go. As well, Justin Bartha is super cute, and I’m loving Ellen Barkin.

B-

2012 Emmy Predictions

The 2012 Emmy nominations will be announced tomorrow, so I thought I’d post some last-minute predictions for the major categories. My predictions are ranked in order of who I think is most likely to receive a nomination. (In other words, just because I have something ranked as #1, it doesn’t necessarily mean I think it will end up winning the category.)

Best Comedy Series

  1. Modern Family
  2. Parks and Recreation
  3. 30 Rock
  4. The Big Bang Theory
  5. Curb Your Enthusiasm
  6. Girls

Alternates:

  1. New Girl
  2. Two and a Half Men
  3. Louie

Thoughts: I feel pretty confident in the first three. The Big Bang Theory and Curb Your Enthusiasm seem like reliable bets, given their history at the Emmys. (But are people getting tired of either/both?)The sixth spot is more difficult to predict. Will voters go for the trendy cable buzz of Girls, or the broad network comedy of New Girl? I’m betting the former, especially since there are already a lot of network shows in the mix.

Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

  1. Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
  2. Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
  3. Louis C.K., Louie
  4. Don Cheadle, House of Lies
  5. Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm
  6. John Cryer, Two and a Half Men

Alternates:

  1. Johnny Galecki, The Big Bang Theory
  2. Aston Kutcher, Two and a Half Men
  3. Will Arnett, Up All Night

Thoughts: The first three are basically locked in. Cheadle’s show is very small, but I think he’s respected enough to get in. David and his show have had a strong run with the Emmy’s. But then we have the matter of Two and a Half Men. Will the Emmy’s recognize the reliable veteran of the show (Cryer, who was nominated in the supporting category last year), or its splashy new star (Kutcher)? Or neither? Galecki was nominated last year, so I definitely wouldn’t count him out, either.

Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

  1. Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
  2. Tina Fey, 30 Rock
  3. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
  4. Zooey Deschanel, New Girl
  5. Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
  6. Melissa McCarthy, Mike and Molly

Alternates:

  1. Laura Dern, Enlightened
  2. Laura Linney, The Big C
  3. Lena Dunham, Girls

Thoughts: This is a packed category. The first three ladies are in. Deschanel probably has the right combo of star power and a hit show. The next two spots are honestly a toss-up, and I could see any of the above names getting in.

Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

  1. Ty Burrell, Modern Family
  2. Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family
  3. Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family
  4. Ed O’Neill, Modern Family
  5. Nick Offerman, Parks and Recreation
  6. Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother

Alternates:

  1. Chris Colfer, Glee
  2. Max Greenfield, New Girl

Thoughts: All the Modern Family dudes are in. (Can it be Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s turn to win this year? Please?) I think Offerman will finally get his well-deserved nomination. Sixth spot could go to either Harris or Colfer. I think the fading interest in Glee from both the Emmys and the general population could cost Colfer his nom this year.

Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

  1. Julie Bowen, Modern Family
  2. Sofia Vergara, Modern Family
  3. Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live
  4. Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock
  5. Betty White, Hot in Cleveland
  6. Cloris Leachman, Raising Hope

Alternates:

  1. Jane Lynch, Glee
  2. Maya Rudolph, Up All Night
  3. Cheryl Hines, Suburgatory

Thoughts: A bit of a blah category, if you ask me (though I’d love to see Wiig win). The first four are very likely to get in. Betty White always gets nominated for things. I can’t really come up with a compelling sixth name, so I’ll go with veteran actress Leachman. I don’t think Lynch had enough to do this season to get in.

Best Drama Series

  1. Mad Men
  2. Breaking Bad
  3. Game of Thrones
  4. Homeland
  5. Boardwalk Empire
  6. Downton Abbey

Alternates:

  1. The Good Wife
  2. House
  3. Dexter

Thoughts: I feel fairly confident in those six choices. They seem like the hot, critically acclaimed shows right now. However, if the Emmy’s want to include at least one network show, they could go with their beloved Good Wife, or they could send House off with one last nomination.

Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series

  1. Jon Hamm, Mad Men
  2. Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
  3. Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire
  4. Damian Lewis, Homeland
  5. Hugh Laurie, House
  6. Kelsey Grammar, Boss

Alternates:

  1. Michael C. Hall, Dexter
  2. Timothy Olyphant, Justified
  3. Dustin Hoffman, Luck

Thoughts: Hamm and Cranston are obviously in. Buscemi and Lewis are also very likely, I think. Laurie, who has been nominated (and lost) for the last six years in a row will probably be recognized for his final season. (Could he even be a dark horse to win?) Will Michael C. Hall’s own nomination streak end in favour of Grammar’s new show? It’s hard to say, but I’m guessing yes.

Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series

  1. Claire Danes, Homeland
  2. Juliana Margulies, The Good Wife
  3. Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
  4. Mariska Hargitay, Law and Order: SVU
  5. Glenn Close, Damages
  6. Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer

Alternates:

  1. Kathy Bates, Harry’s Law
  2. Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey
  3. Elizabeth McGovern, Downton Abbey

Thoughts: The first three are in, and I say the Emmy is Danes’ to lose. Harigtay has been nominated for the past eight years, so why would she stop being nominated now? (She won back in 2006.) Glenn Close also seems likely. Tough call for the sixth spot. Even though Sedgwick missed out on the nomination last year and Bates got in, I’m going with Sedgwick.

Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

  1. Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
  2. Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
  3. John Slatery, Mad Men
  4. Giancarlo Esposito, Breaking Bad
  5. Alan Cumming, The Good Wife
  6. Mandy Patinkin, Homeland

Alternates:

  1. Walton Goggins, Justified
  2. Nick Nolte, Luck
  3. John Goodman, Damages

Thoughts: First three seem like solid bets. I’d say Esposito is likely. Then it gets tough. This is what we call guessing.

Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

  1. Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
  2. Christina Hendricks, Mad Men
  3. Kelly MacDonald, Boardwalk Empire
  4. Christine Baranski, The Good Wife
  5. Archie Panjabi, The Good Wife
  6. Rose Byrne, Damages

Alternates:

  1. Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad
  2. Michelle Forbes, The Killing
  3. Angelica Huston, Smash

Thoughts: Well, it seems like there are six spots and seven ladies with a chance at filling them. I could see anyone but Smith or Hendricks missing out, but I’m guessing Gunn right now. I haven’t seen the fourth season of Breaking Bad yet, but based on the first three, she doesn’t really seem Emmy-worthy.

Top 10 Sketches of SNL Season 37

Oh, SNL. Sometimes I wonder why I watch it every week. But then a character like Stefon comes along and makes me fall in love with the show all over again.

I thought this past season was actually a very strong one for the show. It seemed like the writing was a bit tighter, and with standout performers like Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, and relative newbie Taran Killam stepping up to the plate, it gave us plenty of memorable moments. Here’s a look at some of the best.

Honorable Mention: “She’s a Rainbow” (Mick Jagger)

I didn’t feel right including it on my list, since this wasn’t a proper sketch and wasn’t supposed to be humorous. However, it was such a lovely send-off for Kristen Wiig that I would be remised not to mention it. Love Mick Jagger and Arcade Fire, love the rest of the cast members’ reaction. Wiig is awesome, and I’m sad to see her go.


Honorable Mention: “The Real Housewives of Disney” (Lindsay Lohan)

Definitely had some great moments (Taran Killam’s snooty Prince Charming laugh, Wiig’s drunken Cinderella), but didn’t quite live up to its potential as an entire comedy bit for me.

Honorable Mention: “J Pop America Funtime Now!” (Anna Faris)

Killam and Vanessa Bayer play two white kids obsessed with Japanese culture who are gleeful in their unintentional racism. At least they have Sudeikis’ exasperated teacher to try and set them straight. Killam’s moony grin kills me.

10. Bein’ Quirky With Zooey Deschanel (Zooey Deschanel)

Sketches that allow the cast to roll out their celebrity impressions are often enjoyable, but rarely noteworthy. But something about this sketch just worked. We may have seen Killam’s pitiable Michael Cera, Wiig’s giggling Bjork (who knits a sweater for an octopus and leaves “one extra hole for its dreams and ideas”), but they’re perfect in this setting. Abby Elliot’s adorkable Zooey Deschanel and Zooey Deschanel’s Mary-Kate Olsen were also nice.


9. Columbus Day Assblast (Ben Stiller)

Ass Dan will never not be funny to me.

8. You Can Do Anything! (Daniel Radcliffe)

Radcliffe was an eager host, so it made sense to give him such a high-energy sketch to work with. It cleverly commented on the obliviousness and delusions of young people today, and Radcliffe’s little jig was just wonderful. It also gave me a phrase to work into conversation: “I tried, and therefore no one should criticize me.” Radcliffe was actually a great host.


7. Someone Like You (Emma Stone)

It’s a simple premise: everyone listens to Adele’s “Someone Like You” and cries uncontrollably. But it’s really funny. Nasim Pedrad gets the Best Crier in Show award from me.


6. B108FM (Lindsay Lohan)

There wasn’t a lot to this sketch, but I just really, really enjoyed it. It was nice to see Killam and Bobby Moynihan get their own sketch. Playing two morning radio DJ’s in the middle of nowhere, Killam and Moynihan’s enthusiasm was infectious. Lohan’s contribution was less than stellar, but even she couldn’t bring down the gleeful mood of this one.

5. Retirement Party (Jason Segel)

This is a bit of a bizarre one, and some would say that it doesn’t go anywhere. I, however, found it increasingly hilarious to watch Wiig exclaim, “I don’t have anything to say!” repeatedly. “I’m not quick on my feet. I’m not Robin William.”

4.Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing (Melissa McCarthy)

McCarthy proved countless times that she was a host up for anything. Perhaps this was never more apparent than in this sketch, which revolved around a focus group sampling ranch dressing. McCarthy’s comedic timing and ability to go with the flow are just two reasons why she was one of the best hosts of the season.

3. Coach Bert (Steve Buscemi)

Definitely an edgy one, considering it came right on the heels of the Penn State scandal. Very funny, though, and Buscemi was the perfect host to pull it off. I love when SNL goes dark (see also: Jason Sudeikis as the Devil).

2. Lord Wyndemere (Anna Faris)

Paul Brittain, you shall be missed. His delightful little sweets-loving lord was an inspired character. Jason Sudeikis as the enraptured father and Bill Hader as the footman, Turlington, were almost just as good.

1. Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen (Sofia Vergara)

I had never heard of Andy Cohen when I watched this sketch, and I’ve actually still never seen him live in action. But something about Killam’s gleeful self-delusions as Cohen won me over. I laughed. A lot. This was one of Killam’s standout moments of the season, and I still can’t get that image of his face on a dog’s body out of my head.

Other Notable Bits (AKA things that weren’t their own sketch, but still were funny):

  • Bobby Moynihan as Drunk Uncle on Weekend Update (“Netflix me! Netflix me!”)
  • Justin Timberlake as Bon Iver
  • Nicholas Cage appearing in Get in the Cage
  • Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Seth Myers sharing the Weekend Update desk. That whole Jimmy Fallon episode was just lovely.
  • Jason Sudeikis playing both the Devil and Jesus over the course of the season
  • The entire Maya Rudolph episode. Seriously. There wasn’t one super standout sketch for me, but it was just an all-around fantastic episode.

Emmy Nomination Thoughts


Actress in a Comedy Series

Laura Linney – The Big C

Edie Falco – Nurse Jackie

Amy Poehler – Parks and Recreation

Melissa McCarthy – Mike and Molly

Martha Plimpton – Raising Hope

Tina Fey – 30 Rock

  • Obvious Picks: Fey, Falco, Linney
  • Snubbed: Lea Michele (but I’m not that sad about it, to be honest. She was grating this season on Glee)
  • It’s great to see Poehler nominated for the second year running. I think she could be a darkhorse to win the category.
  • Plimpton is great on Raising Hope, and I’m pleasantly surprised by her nomination
  • I don’t watch Mike and Molly, but McCarthy seems like the biggest surprise in this category. She was hilarious in Bridesmaids, though, so I’m sure she’s deserving.

Actor in a Comedy Series

Matt Le Blanc – Episodes

Jim Parsons – The Big Bang Theory

Steve Carell – The Office

Johnny Galecki – The Big Bang Theory

Louie C.K. – Louie

Alec Baldwin – 30 Rock

  • Obvious Picks: Baldwin, Carell, Parsons
  • Snubbed: Matthew Morrison, I guess? (Though I was never sure why he got nominated last year)
  • LeBlanc and especially Louie C.K. are slightly surprising since their shows are pretty under-the-radar
  • I like that Galecki finally got some recognition, too.
  • Since it was his last season on The Office and he’s never won, this will probably be Carell’s year. It’s a bit of a weak year for this category, so he doesn’t have a lot of competition.

Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Jane Lynch – Glee

Betty White – Hot in Cleveland

Julie Bowen – Modern Family

Kristen Wiig – Saturday Night Live

Jane Krakowski – 30 Rock

Sofia Vergara – Modern Family

  • This was a fairly predictable category, but pretty deserving all around (But Hot in Cleveland? Really?)
  • I think this category is actually pretty wide open. Lynch wasn’t featured as much on this season of Glee, and they turned her character into more of a caricature. Plus, the show is obviously losing traction with the Emmy’s. No one else has won before, so it could be anyone. Forced to predict a winner, I’d go with Vergara. (I don’t particularly like her on Modern Family, but other people seem to.)

Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

John Cryer – Two and a Half Men

Chris Colfer – Glee

Jesse Tyler Ferguson – Modern Family

Ed O’Neill – Modern Family

Eric Stonestreet – Modern Family

Ty Burrell – Modern Family

  • Obvious Picks: Colfer, Stonestreet, Burrell
  • Snubs: Neil Patrick Harris, Nick Offerman (Whyyyy! He’s so good!)
  • Ugh, I have some beefs with this category. Are we seriously still nominating Two and a Half Men for stuff? Is this some kind of pity nomination for Cryer because he had to work with Charlie Sheen all of these years? He’s funny on the show, but that show is way past its “prime”, and he already has his Emmy.
  • I’m happy to see Ferguson, Stonestreet, and Burrell all get nominated, but I was fine with snubbing O’Neill last year. I really don’t like him on the show.
  • If Burrell, Ferguson, or Colfer win, I will be a very happy camper. They are all fantastic.
  • I’m going to predict Burrell for the win (wishful thinking?), but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Colfer won.

Comedy Series

Glee

Parks and Recreation

The Office

Modern Family

30 Rock

The Big Bang Theory

  • I LOVE that Parks and Recreation got recognized. It was on fire this season.
  • I understand nominating Steve Carell, but The Office totally doesn’t deserve this nomination. I didn’t watch much of it this year, but I was extremely unimpressed from what I did see. It’s been on the decline for a few seasons now, and it hit a new low this year IMO.
  • Community may have been a bit inconsistent this year, but it would have been a way more deserving nomination. I’m not that surprised that it got snubbed, but I’m sure all the fanboys are fuming right now.

Random thoughts on the other nominations (because I am uncultured and don’t watch any fancy drama shows):

  • Big thumbs up to Matt Damon getting nominated for Guest Comedy Actor on 30 Rock. Zach Galifianakis is also deserving for his hosting stint on SNL.
  • Mad Men is definitely deserving of its mountain of nominations. All four nominated actors are great!
  • It’s great to see Friday Night Lights finally get nominated for Best Drama Series (I’m only at the third season, though, so I can’t say whether or not it deserved its nomination this year. But I’m going to guess yes.) Any chance Kyle Chandler and/or Connie Britton can beat out all the Emmy vets and win for their last season?
  • CAT DEELY for Best Reality Host!!! Yay! She was long, long overdue. Jesse Tyler Ferguson (who was a lovely, hilarious judge last night on So You Think You Can Dance) was saying that he hoped she’d be nominated, so I imagine there will be much shoulder-patting on tonight’s show.
  • And speaking of SYTYCD, they picked some great routines in the choreography category. Stacey Tookey’s “Mad World”, Tabitha and Napoleon’s “Outta Your Mind”, and Travis Wall’s “Fix You” were all very memorable.
  • Nice to see Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Fallon in the variety series category (Colbert, too, but that was less surprising)
  • I really enjoy the fact that the “Jack Sparrow” song from SNL is nominated in the Original Music and Lyrics category (as is “I Just Had Sex” and “3-Way”)