Eclaire Fare

Enjoying Pop Culture, One Bite at a Time

Previewing the NBC Pilots September 19, 2007

Filed under: Television — Emily @ 3:45 pm

I was excited last week, while still in the graveyard between summer and fall programming, when I discovered an offer on my TiVo menu to download NBC’s drama pilots for free on Amazon Unbox. So, I did just that, and within an hour I had access to Journeyman, Bionic Woman, Chuck, and Life. (I understand that you can rent them at Blockbuster, too, or watch them online.) Over the past few days I have made my way through all four, and now I am ready to give my more informed opinion of each (as opposed to the pure guessing I did a couple of weeks ago in my NBC Fall Preview.)  Some of my opinions have changed.

Here is how I now rank the four pilots, starting with the one that was most interesting, entertaining, and well made:

  1. Chuck
  2. Journeyman
  3. Life
  4. Bionic Woman

Now, my explanation for these rankings, starting at the bottom.

Bionic Woman – In my previous post, I had very high hopes for Bionic Woman, but I was extremely disappointed in the pilot.  It was boring, poorly written, poorly acted, poorly edited, etc.  Basically, it was the complete opposite of what I was expecting.  I have no desire to watch another episode.  I’d hate to watch the original pilot, since the one I watched was the “new and improved” version.   I was hoping it would have an Alias vibe to it.  From the first episode of that show, I cared about Sydney Bristow and her friends.  J.J. Abrams and his crew did a great job of developing the characters while also supplying viewers with a fast-paced, intriguing opening story.  Fast forward to 2007, and Bionic Woman has failed to do any of that.  I don’t feel sorry for the main character, I don’t see what’s so great about her boyfriend, I don’t “believe” the relationship between her and her sister, and I find the “bad guys” totally wooden and uninteresting.  Even Katee Sackhoff has trouble making something interesting out of the material she is given. So, watch at your own risk.  Who knows? Maybe the show will improve, but I don’t think I’ll be there to see if that happens.

LifeThis show is a little over the top, in terms of the main character, Charlie Crews.  After serving 12 years of a life sentence for a crime that he didn’t commit, he is released and returns to his old job as a cop.  His being out of touch with modern society is exaggerated, though.  When the pilot begins, he is on his first day back at work, but he has been out of prison for 4 months. Surely that was enough time for him to learn about things like camera phones, instant messaging, and e-mailing pictures to a phone.  Yet, every time a situation arises that would be normal to most people, he is mesmerized by modern technology.  I found that aspect of the show distracting.  There is also the suggestion that his horrific experiences in prison left him slightly unbalanced, which I am sure is quite possible, but that they also gave him some special insight into human nature.  Now he always seems to know just the right thing to say, or just the right place to look, for a key piece of evidence.  However, setting aside these distractions, I found the episode entertaining.  I’m not sure that I would watch every week, but there is the promise of Crews’ ongoing search for the truth about the crime for which he was convicted.  I will probably watch the second episode to see where the show is going.

Journeyman – I was really impressed by this pilot, especially since I had such low expectations going into it. The writers handled the time travel split storyline very well, and there was enough character development that I cared about the main characters. Sure, the question of why Dan Vasser has suddenly started spontaneously time traveling was completely ignored, but why get bogged down in that?  It’s more interesting to see how his sudden disappearances, of varying lengths, affect his personal and professional life.  One other thing I enjoyed was the clues viewers were given about what year he had popped into.  Late 90s gave us a nice sampling of Sarah MacLachlan, whereas mid-1980s showed us a guy strutting around on the sidewalk with a boombox over his shoulder.  Fun little touches like those make this a fun show for those of us who soaked up a lot of music and culture in the 80s and 90s.  I wonder if he will travel back any further in time in future episodes.  I will keep watching to find out – at least until NBC cancels it.  But who knows?  Monday nights may become a new night of Must See TV for NBC, with the dynamic trio of Chuck, Heroes, and Journeyman.  Which brings me to…

Chuck – This show was highly entertaining.  Of these four pilots, it was the sharpest, funniest, and most seamless.  Everything from the casting and the acting, to the camera work and the stunt work, was spot on.  I loved the digs at mega stores like Best Buy and Walmart (I won’t go into the specifics here; you should just watch and see for yourself).  The humor in this episode was funnier than what’s on most sitcoms, thanks to a nice balance between the writing and the actors’ delivery of the material.  Aside from the humor, the premise of the show leaves a lot of room for variety in future episodes, plus we are left with hints that not everything is as it seems.  So, Chuck is an unusual blend of comedy, spy intrigue, and mystery of the week.  I am torn between watching it or continuing to enjoy How I Met Your Mother (since they air at the same time).  Whatever I decide, I can confidently recommend this show to anyone who appreciates a nice mix of humor and action.

Now all that’s left is to see how the cards fall.  Which shows will be left standing at the end of the year, or even at Christmas?  Stay tuned…

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Fall 2007 Preview: New Shows on ABC September 16, 2007

Filed under: Television — Emily @ 5:45 pm

Well, I’ve finally gotten around to the final network in my Purely Conjecture Fall Preview: ABC. Originally, this was the network whose new shows I had the most interest in. However, at this point I think the only one I am sure I will check out is Pushing Daisies. Here’s a rundown of what ABC is offering up this fall.

Show with Potential

  • Pushing Daisies – So, this is the critical darling. Just about all the critics love it. I am hoping I will love it, too, but the build up has been enormous. It will be interesting to see how the general viewing audience reacts to it.
  • Samantha Who – This comedy looks cute, and has an appealing cast, including Christina Applegate (it’s time she has another successful sit-com), Jean Smart, and Melissa McCarthy. Perhaps Barry Watson will even have a role that helps us forget about Seventh Heaven, since he’s sporting a new short hair style. I will watch the pilot, but beyond that I would have to be quite impressed to watch on a regular basis. My main concern with this show is it’s name. Kind of bland.

Mediocre Shows

  • Carpoolers – This sounds like a really boring comedy. Let’s watch a group of guys drive up and down the freeway on the way to and from their jobs. Don’t people watch television at night so they can escape the all too real reality of commuting? Why will they want to watch these characters go through these dull motions? It’s only hope is that it doesn’t spend the majority of its time with car scenes.
  • Private Practice – When I first heard about this Grey’s Anatomy spin-off, I figured, how could they go wrong? Especially after I read about the all-star, veteran cast. However, my expectations were completely busted by the awful spin-off episode of Grey’s last spring. Now I have no interest in watching the show. None of the characters are particularly likable (which is the same reason that I am most likely not going to watch Grey’s anymore either), and the name itself is uninviting. I’ll be watching something else, if anything, at this time on Wednesday nights.
  • Dirty Sexy Money – I’m really not interested in another primetime soap. Sure, it has a top notch cast, but that doesn’t always translate to appointment television. I may watch the pilot, but I doubt it will draw me in. I rarely enjoy shows about self-centered rich people and their problems.
  • Big Shots – Love the cast, hate the name, hate the previews I’ve seen. Poor Michael Vartan. I hope a better show than this comes along for him. I view this show the same way that I viewed morning talk show The Other Half several years ago. At that time, the powers that be wanted to capitalize on the success of the female-centric The View by cloning it with male hosts. Didn’t work out for Dick Clark, Mario Lopez, and company. Now, I see ABC trying to capitalize on the success of Desperate Housewives, or Brothers & Sisters, or maybe this is their male version of Sex & the City. But I just don’t see the appeal of watching a bunch of manly men sitting around gossiping and complaining about their lives. I’ll skip this one.
  • Women’s Murder Club – I am sure this show will appeal to a certain type of viewer, but I’m not it. I wish it well, though.

Bad Ideas That I Won’t Even Consider Watching

  • Cavemen – Um, I thought this was a bad idea the moment I first heard about it, and now that it is only weeks from becoming a reality, my position still stands. I only hope that America agrees with me.

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I’ll save my breath regarding the mid-season replacements, as some of them may never even see the light of day. Other than the two listed above as having potential, I don’t see much of interest in ABC’s new batch. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Private Practice succeed on the coattails of its sister show.

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Fall 2007 Preview: New Shows on NBC September 9, 2007

Filed under: Television — Emily @ 7:29 pm

When I looked over my list of returning shows that I would be watching, I was surprised to see that every single one of them airs on NBC. About five years ago, I lost all hope in NBC when they canceled Boomtown and started airing Fear Factor and way too many other reality shows instead. Well, I guess it’s safe to say that NBC is headed in the right direction again. They got lucky last year with the surprise success of Heroes. I wonder if they will find another new hit this season. And in case you’re wondering, the shows on my must-watch list this fall include: The Office, 30 Rock, Friday Night Lights, and Heroes. Oddly enough, nothing else is appointment viewing for me. (The latest casualty was Grey’s Anatomy, after I grew weary of its ridiculous storylines last season). Let’s take a look at NBC’s new shows:

Shows with Potential

  • Chuck – One of a handful of “geek shows” this fall, Chuck appears to be a fun and funny show. Will that be enough to make it appointment viewing? Not sure. I’ll at least check out the pilot. One thing that concerns me is that the character types on this show are strangely similar to those on the CW’s Reaper. This is probably more of a problem for Reaper, but hopefully this won’t be another case of two shows too similar, a la last year’s Kidnapped and Vanished (although I’m not sure either one of those would have been worth saving anyway). Another obstacle to me tuning in is that it airs opposite How I Met Your Mother, which is one of my “easy to keep up with” 30-minute shows. By the way, in an effort to control the amount of television that I watch, I have a rule that I can only watch one show in one time period, which is why I stopped watching shows like CSI, Supernatural, Smallville, etc. in the past. I rarely watch shows live, but I have one of those “old” TiVos that can only record one thing at a time, and I simply refuse to use my VCR.
  • Bionic Woman – I’ve heard that Fox’s mid-season show The Sarah O’Connor Chronicles will be an even better super heroine show, but I am highly anticipating this first one, regardless of the negative press it has received because of the ongoing Isaiah Washington controversy (why are people still hung up on that, by the way?). The video previews are polished and intriguing, and you can never go wrong with guest appearances by Katee Sackhoff. This show and Pushing Daisies are the only two new offerings that I have definite plans to tune in to. Best case, this show will be as thrilling and entertaining as Alias. Worst case, it will get stuck in a formulaic story-of-the-week routine that won’t keep people tuning in on a regular basis.

Mediocre Shows

  • Journeyman – Interesting premise, odd casting. This show has a Quantum Leap feel to it, but it lacks the appeal of a Scott Bakula or a Dean Stockwell. The main cast doesn’t seem too memorable or interesting. Or, maybe my problem with the show is that I recently read Audrey Niffenegger’s amazing novel The Time Traveler’s Wife, which managed to combine elements of science fiction, drama, and romance better than any book I’ve ever read. A television show is going to have a difficult time topping that – first of all because there simply isn’t as much room for details, and secondly because confusing time travel paradoxes and multiple story lines in various time periods can get out of hand very quickly. I will watch the pilot, but I have low expectations. One positive about the show is that it is set in San Francisco. I always enjoy seeing that city, so if they film any scenes on location, that will be fun.
  • Life – This is the NBC show that I have the least interest in. It’s a show about a man who gets his old life back after serving a sentence for a crime he didn’t commit. That doesn’t sound like a premise that can hold viewer interest for very long without relying on the crime of the week formula that works so well for all the Jerry Bruckheimer shows. My prediction: this will be the first NBC show of the season to be canceled.

Bad Ideas That I Won’t Even Consider Watching

  • Surprisingly, NBC didn’t come up with any initially bad ideas this season. They are probably saving their cheesy reality programming for mid-season…

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Fall 2007 Preview: New Shows on The CW

Filed under: Television — Emily @ 5:15 pm

So far I’ve given a brief overview of new shows on Fox and CBS, and had planned to cover NBC’s new slate next. A few days ago I realized that I had completely forgotten about The CW, so I suppose I will take a look at its new offerings now. Why did I forget about this “little network who could… not”? Well, it seems that I have finally moved outside of this network’s targeted demographic. CW and I didn’t start off on the right foot to begin with. Two years ago, the powers that were at UPN and WB decided not to renew the still-strong at the time Everwood, and instead chose to resurrect the already on its death bed 7th Heaven (why? I still ask why?). At the same time Smallville was getting ridiculous (sorry to those who are still fans), and frankly, there just wasn’t much left that interested me.

Fast forward a year, and in Spring 2007 we said goodbye to the two shows I was still watching on The CW: Gilmore Girls (granted, it was time for this one to bow out) and Veronica Mars (maybe if they had just left it alone in the first place – they stole a lot of its thunder when they took away the season-long mystery arc). Now, for the first time in nearly ten years (I believe I started watching Dawson’s Creek in 1998), I will not be watching anything on “the other network.”

It’s been a viewer-network relationship with ups and downs, but some of my most beloved shows were introduced to me by the former WB: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Roswell, Gilmore Girls, Everwood etc. Now, the network has turned its back on shows like these, and has instead embraced head scratchers like One Tree Hill. I know there are still some decent shows airing on The CW – Everybody Hates Chris and Supernatural, for example. But overall, I’m simply not picking up what they are putting down. Here we go:

Shows with Potential

  • Aliens in America – If I were going to watch any show on the CW this fall, it would be this one. The clips I’ve seen from it actually make me laugh out loud, which is more than I can say for most of the new comedies. I like the premise, so I will probably watch the pilot. Unfortunately, Aliens in America airs opposite How I Met Your Mother on Monday nights, so I probably won’t be getting to know the show very well. This should be a good companion show for Everybody Hates Chris, so I’d be surprised if it doesn’t get a full season.
  • Reaper – This show seems to have a similar tone to ABC’s Pushing Daisies, as it deals with the supernatural with a comedic rather than morbid approach. However, I doubt it will be as well-executed as ABC’s critical darling. The other question is, will CW viewers want to watch a show about Satan’s bounty hunter? I’m doubtful. Still, the cast is intriguing, most notably Ray Wise (I remember him best as Leland Palmer on Twin Peaks) and Tyler Labine (most recently on Invasion). I may watch the pilot episode, but will have to be quite impressed to tune in beyond that.

Mediocre Shows

Gossip Girl – This show may be just the type that the typical CW viewer will be interested in. At this point in my life I’m not interested in watching a show about self-absorbed, rich teenagers. The problem with this type of show is that it’s typically difficult to like the characters, unless they are well-developed. The video clips of the show made available last spring left me cold. But, there are lots of pretty people in the cast, and that seems to have kept One Tree Hill on the air for this long.

Bad Ideas That I Won’t Even Consider Watching

  • Life is Wild – Bad name, weak premise, and from what I can tell, poorly cast – even if Nina from Everwood is on it. I am not buying these people as a family, and I have no interest in watching them work out their problems in South Africa. Since this show is scheduled to air on Sunday nights (a night on which the WB/CW doesn’t have a great track record), and because it has the lowest amount of appeal, I predict it will be the network’s first casualty of the season.
  • Farmer Wants a Wife – Need I even explain why I don’t like this show? It makes Joe Millionaire look a lot better – I’ll put it that way. I don’t see how this show can turn out to be anything other than demeaning to everyone involved (which is how I feel about most of these “reality” dating shows). Throw in a handful of farmer jokes and “fish out of water” scenarios for the city girls, and you have a ridiculous spectacle. Will people watch? Probably. Hopefully, though, not enough to keep this one on the air for a full season. But then again, this is the network that is bringing us a second season of the atrocious Search for the Next Pussycat Doll, which is nothing more than a casting call for strippers with bad singing voices.
  • Crowned – If you’ve read much on my blog, my disdain for most reality tv is glaringly obvious. That’s pretty much how I feel about beauty pageants, too. So I have absolutely no interest in watching a reality show that takes the pageant premise and uses it to pit mothers and daughters against one another. For me, this show falls in the same category as Kid Nation, which I suppose means that the contestants are more to blame than the network, since they are the ones who signed up for it. Count me out.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I am apparently not the type of viewer that the CW is looking for. But, in terms of their target audience, this batch of new shows seems far better than last season’s, so I wish them luck.

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Fall 2007 Preview: New Shows on CBS September 1, 2007

Filed under: Television — Emily @ 8:43 am

Shows with Potential

Unfortunately, I don’t see much potential in any of these shows. If I had to pick one that I think may last the longest, I would go with Cane.

Mediocre Shows

  • The Big Bang Theory – Well, for starters, I don’t like the name of the show. Also not instilling much confidence in the show’s potential to be interesting (at least to me) is that it is from the creators of Two and a Half Men, a show whose humor and appeal I have never understood. Finally, if the 30 second clip on cbs.com was the best sampling of the show they could come up with, I fear (or maybe hope?) that this show won’t last long. One last word about the premise – there are only so many jokes that can be made about two nerdy guys before it seems cruel or at least stale. For me, making fun of people is not my idea of quality humor, so I won’t be laughing along with the sure-to-be overused laugh track on this one.
  • Cane – This show features some established actors, including Jimmy Smits, Hector Elizondo, and Rita Moreno. And as far as my memory serves, this is the first all-Hispanic cast primetime soap to air on network television. Before now, the Hispanic shows have been relegated to comedies like George Lopez. This is a show about a family and their sugar cane and rum empire. Hmm… Brothers & Sisters is a show about a family and their food and wine company. Perhaps this is CBS’ answer to the success of that family drama last season, but as is usually the case, there is usually only room for so many similar shows. Another show coming out this fall that may have more widespread appeal is Dirty Sexy Money, so I am guessing that Cane will not be able to build an audience, even though it will probably be a well done show. I may watch the pilot just to see what it is like, but Friday Night Lights is the only family drama that I will be giving my undivided attention to this season.
  • Viva Laughlin – I really wanted this show to be good, and who knows? Maybe it will surprise me. But it seems like the critics have given up on it before it has begun, which is never a good sign. The premise sounds fun – a drama/thriller/musical about a man and his family pursuing the American dream. Problem #1: Most Americans are not going to watch a show that is described in any way as a musical. Problem #2: The casino setting may be too similar to Las Vegas and CSI. What I do like about the show is that it is kind of like Moulin Rouge for television, and it has a great cast. Even if Hugh Jackman is only a recurring star, it will be fun to see him sing. And I have been a fan of Madchen Amick since Twin Peaks, and D.B. Woodside since his first season on 24. Melanie Griffith also seems like a good fit for this type of show. With all this in mind, I will watch the pilot with low expectations, and see what happens from there. I don’t see this one hanging around for long, though.

Bad Ideas That I Won’t Even Consider Watching

  • Kid Nation – Networks are running low (they will never run completely out) of new ideas for reality shows, so they are opening up a new market now: kid reality. This seems like a case of child exploitation to me, in terms of putting them through difficult situations to entertain the viewing public. When reality show producers manipulate and humiliate adult contestants, those adults knew what they were getting into. Maybe the blame here should fall on the parents who agreed to let their children appear on the show. The sensational nature of this show will most likely result in it being marginally popular, but hopefully we won’t have to see a second season.
  • MoonlightI categorize this show as a “bad idea” not so much because it’s about a vampire. I usually like vampire shows. The problem is that CBS is trying to market a vampire show, and they are trying to give it a clever, light tone (just watch the 30 second clip on cbs.com to see what I mean). This premise has been done, and done better (without the artificial cheerfulness), at least once. Remember that other show about a vampire PI who battled creatures of the night while also fighting his attraction to a mortal woman? It was called Angel, I enjoyed it for five seasons, and it was a nice fit for what was at the time a wide variety of niche programming on the WB. I guess my main problem with the show is that it is too clean. If you’re going to create a show about vampires and things that go bump in the night, don’t try to mask the dark aspects to make it appeal to the typical CBS viewer. That simply won’t work. My guess is that this one won’t make it into November.

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The only CBS show I watch is How I Met Your Mother, and based on the sub par new offerings, I think it will stay that way. Next up in my Fall Preview 2007: ABC.