Fall TV Preview 2011 – Part 2

Person of Interest Looks Like Fun

Okay, here’s part 2 of my Fall TV preview. I’ve listed all of the shows premiering between Sept. 18 and Sept 24. and what I think of them. There’s a lot of good shows  coming up. There are also shows that should have been cancelled years ago.

Feel free to post your own thoughts in the comments.

Sept. 19

Dancing With The Stars (ABC):  So the big controversy is apparently that Chaz Bono is on it. Apparently there are ultra-conservatives who think having a transgender person on a reality show is bad or something. I think a much bigger controversy should be why there are so many dancing shows.

How I Met Your Mother (CBS):  Consistently the funniest show on any of the big three networks. Neil Patrick Harris just kills it on this show and the writers are some of the smartest, wittiest writers on television. 

The Sing Off (NBC): Sixteen a cappella groups compete against each other. I like a cappella from time to time, but definitely not every week.

Two And A Half Men (CBS): Ashton Kutcher is not Charlie Sheen. Charlie Sheen is funnier and I didn’t watch the show when Charlie was on it.

2 Broke Girls (CBS): Sarcastic Brooklyn waitress meets uptight socialite who suddenly has no money. You’ve seen this show a hundred times and so have I. I’m betting this show won’t be around by Christmas.

Castle (ABC): I’m a huge fan of Nathan Fillion. I even watched the six episodes of Drive a few years ago. I honestly didn’t like the premise of Castle and thought it wouldn’t last. It has and the few episodes I watched were actually good. I’ll be watching this regularly this year.

Hawaii Five-O (CBS):  Flashy cop show that has nothing original going on.  I watched a few episodes last year, but it’s just not my thing.

The Playboy Club (ABC): First off, having a show called The Playboy Club and not having it on HBO or Showtime is just a little bit silly. Secondly, you’re not going to capture that Mad Men audience by making shows that take place in the mid-60s. You’ll get them by having fantastically well written and well acted shows. Whether this is one of them remains to be seen. Personally I doubt it.

Sept. 20

Glee (Fox): I’ve watched a few episodes. I’ve never been one for musicals (with the obvious exception of Dr. Horrible and the like)

NCIS (CBS): My biggest problem with this show is that Mark Harmon will ALWAYS be Mr. Shoop from Summer School. I simply cannot see him as anything else no matter how much of a hard ass he tries to be, but my mother-in-law loves this show so I’m glad it’s back.

The Biggest Loser (NBC): Watching fat people try to lose weight isn’t my idea of entertainment. It just isn’t.

NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS): I watched the first few episodes of this show and somehow they’ve all merged into one episode. I think because to me they all seemed the same thus I stopped watching.

New Girl (Fox): Zoey Deschanel stars as a recently dumped girl named Jess who moves in with three guys and starts singing. Despite my dislike for musicals, I may watch this simply because Zoey Deschanel is endlessly watchable.

Raising Hope (Fox): I’ve never seen an episode and I’m genuinely surprised it’s back this year.

Body of Proof (ABC): A neurosurgeon gets in a car accident and is unable to operate, she then becomes a medical examiner. I’ve never been a fan of M.E. shows. And really, it seems to me if you want a show on ABC, make it a medical show and you’re in.

Unforgettable (CBS): A woman who remembers every moment solves crimes. I wouldn’t be interested but one of the creators is John Bellucci who was the voice of Derek Wildstar on Star Blazers back in the day. No, this is no guarantee he can write a show, but I’m willing to give it an episode or two.

Sept. 21

The Middle (ABC): Described as a ‘slapstick sitcom’ about a wacky family and how they get along, I’m willing to say that five years from now, not even the people who created this show will remember it.

The X-Factor (Fox): Simon Cowell’s latest talent show. I’ve never watched a full episode of American Idol. I intend to continue this tradition of not watching Simon Cowell’s shows. Sadly, everyone else in America will watch because….well I have no idea why.

Modern Family (ABC): If I were to watch a ‘slapstick sitcome’ about a wacky family and how they get along, this is the one I’d watch. But I’m probably not going to. I like Ed O’Neil a lot, but I like him in his dramatic roles more than his comedic ones.

Criminal Minds (CBS): I’ve talked about this show before. I used to be a big fan but it’s become a weekly event of ‘What horrible thing can we do to how many beautiful women this week?’ (As a side note the CBS show Unforgettable claims only six people in the country have eidetic memories. Since one character on Criminal Minds also has a eidetic memory, that means a third of these people have TV shows.)

Harry’s Law (NBC): David E. Kelley’s latest law show is like all of his other shows. It’s quirky and topical and occasionally funny, but it’s nothing challenging or more than expected. Still, it’s better than most shows out there. I’ll likely be watching this at least in the beginning.

Revenge (ABC): A woman enters a community for the explicit purpose of exacting revenge. It could be fun and at least one episode is directed by the awesome Philip Noyce. I’ll try it out, but with a plot like this, the show needs a specific end point otherwise it’ll start treading water.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (CBS): Sometimes you want to die where everybody knows your name. Okay, that was my way of welcoming Ted Dansen to the cast of CSI. This show should have been cancelled years ago. I still hold out the hope that the final episode will reveal that the mob pays for all of the incredibly expensive forensic equipment they use in exchange for the Las Vegas police looking the other way.

Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit: Wow. I thought this show got cancelled. I’m glad it’s not. Not because I’m watching it, but because that means Richard Belzer can keep playing Det. John Munch, a character he’s been playing since 1993 when he was on Homicide: Life on the Street.

Sept. 22

Charlie’s Angels (ABC): Look, I know for a fact that there are talented, creative writers out there who have original ideas. Can we please stop trying to recreate old shows from the 60s and 70s? Thanks to DVD if we want to watch those old shows, we can.

The Big Bang Theory (CBS):  A stupid show about smart people. And yet, it’s still funny. It could be better if it assumed a certain intelligence in the audience and didn’t have a laugh track that a monkey could follow along to. I’ll be watching because the actors are actually good at turning okay material into genuinely funny stuff.

Community (NBC): Another show I should watch that I don’t. Probably because I’m watching Big Bang Theory. Maybe I’ll try this out this year.

Parks & Recreation (NBC): I’ve heard absolutely nothing about this show and I’ve never watched it. Is it any good?

Grey’s Anatomy (ABC): I must confess I’ve seen every episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Since its second season, this show has had a slow decline in quality punctuated by occasionally really well done episodes. I still contend that every single character on the show is a selfish punk who deserves every bad thing that happens to them.

Person of Interest (CBS): A weird show from the guy who gave you Lost and the guy who gave you Inception. Really, do you need any more than that? Okay, the star of the show is that creepy guy from Lost? Not enough? Fine. The other star is JESUS CHRIST. Oh wait, I mean James Caveizel. Sorry for the confusion. Seriously, this show had better kick my ass. I’m really looking forward to it.

The Office (NBC): Loved the British version of the show and just couldn’t get into the American version. I know he’s no longer on it, but I think I might be the only person in America who doesn’t think Steve Carrell is funny.

Whitney (NBC): A show starring Whitney Cummings who I’ve never heard of and am not interested in.

The Mentalist (CBS): For a show called The Mentalist, this show should be a hell of a lot more clever than it is. Instead it’s House meets Criminal Minds. Yawn.

Prime Suspect (NBC): Somehow there is not already a show called Prime Suspect. This is a cop show starring Maria Bello. This means I’m watching it. She’s a good actress and she’s nice to look at. I still have little hope of the show being good, but I’ll try it out.

Sept. 23

A Gifted Man (CBS): A doctor starts seeing his dead wife. With Medium and Ghost Whisperer gone, I suppose CBS needed a new supernatural show. The only thing this show has going for it is the first episode is directed by Jonathan Demme. I may watch just for that.

Nikita (CW): Apparently this is the second season of this show I’ve never heard of. It’s apparently based on La Femme Nikita. This show will likely continue to fly below my radar.

Kitchen Nightmares (Fox): Chef Gordon Ramsey has become more famous than yelling than he is for cooking. If a British guy yelling at morons at restaurants that are barely getting by in a struggling economy throughout the country sounds like fun to you, you and I probably have very little in common.

CSI: NY (CBS): Still waiting for Gary Senise to show that he’s really a traitor like he is in almost everything he’s ever been in.

Supernatural (CW): Isn’t this like the third last season of this show? Seriously, I swear I read that this show ended three or four years ago.

Fringe (Fox): A smart show with good special effects, good acting, and fantastic writing? With the exception of Person of Interest, this is the show I’m most looking forward to this Fall.

Blue Bloods (CBS): I started watching this show when it premiered last year, but I just couldn’t get into it. This is almost entirely the fault of The Wire. Thanks to The Wire I have absurdly high standards when it comes to a good police drama.

Sept. 24

Rules of Engagement (CBS):   And I thought Friday night was the death slot. Does anyone watch TV on Saturday nights? Why not just cancel the show?

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How Torture Porn Killed Criminal Minds

 

Yet Another Girl With A Gun To Her HeadMany people have said that I have a criminal mind. So it seemed only natural that I might watch a show like Criminal Minds. And I did. The first few seasons were entertaining, occasionally even riveting psychological drama. It helped that they had capable writers and a good cast. The likable team of misfits that made up the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit was a great juxtaposition to the horrible deeds of the serial killers they’d catch each week.

The problem is that there are only so many ways to show the FBI catching serial killers. And there are only so many kinds of serial killers. So after having them catch young serial killers, old serial killers, partner serial killers, father & son serial killers, femme fatale serial killers, cop serial killers, and a bunch of others I’ve left out, what is left? The detail. That’s it. Exactly how they get caught. Exactly who they kill. And exactly what they do to them. The show used to be catching the man (or woman or child or Eskimo stilt walker) responsible for dropping the bodies. Now it’s become about exactly what they do to those bodies. They no longer just find bodies on some logging road. Now we are treated to a few minutes of the killer taunting or cutting or raping or whatever else they can come up with. It’s gone from psychological drama to torture porn.

This isn’t the first show to lose my interest after falling into this trap. It happened with Oz. It happened with 24. It’s not that I can’t stomach to watch these gruesome scenes. I typed up police reports for two years and have a vivid imagination and the things I’ve read (and thus imagined in my head) in the Child Protective Services reports are worse than anything I’ve ever seen on the big or small screen. I have no problem with the gore, but the gore has to have a point.

If the scene is not furthering the plot or furthering the character, then it’s just there to titillate and as a storyteller, I tend to be offended at that sort of thing. The Shawshank Redemption has scenes where our main character gets raped by a group of inmates. That scene is less than a minute long and there isn’t one shot of throbbing penises penetrating him. Why? Because it’s entirely unnecessary.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are times when the sex, the violence, the torture, or the wonder have to be front and center and we need to experience it to really get the movie, but this only happens in the presence of good storytellers. I recently watched an Australian movie called The Square. The story is about a man who commits one sin, then a slightly worse one, then worse, as slowly he’s entirely compromised as a human being. It’s an incredibly well done film and there are no unnecessary scenes in it even though there are a few very unpleasant ones.

At the same time, master storytellers tend to be able to tell a story without overly graphic scenes. The best sex scene in any movie I’ve ever seen is in Robert Altman’s movie The Player and it has no nudity in that scene. A master storyteller understands that given the right fuel, the scene will light up in our heads better than anything they could film. It’s why Silence of the Lambs is a better thriller than any of the sequels. If you know how to tell a story, you don’t have to go there. The audience will go there on their own and they won’t feel too dirty afterword.

I get that not everyone is like me. Some people like to watch pretty explosions or special effects or graphic sex or violence.  I do too, from time to time, but I prefer all of those things to be accompanied by a story. Otherwise it’s all just porn: There to get you off in only the most base way and better when you don’t think about it at all. That’s not what I want from my entertainment.

There was a great comic book series in the 90’s called The Maxx. It ran 35 issues and was still fairly popular when the creators stopped making it. When asked why they stopped, they said they didn’t have any more story to tell. This is what has happened on Criminal Minds. They have no more stories. All they have left are some decent characters who week in week out share the screen with some other characters who are doing horrible things to people. If you’re a long time watcher of the show, you’ll also notice that the newer episodes have more killers who take their victims hostage for days. This isn’t something most serial killers do, but it’s hard to torture dead people and that’s all they have left to show us it seems. Unfortunately they have no more story to tell, but they all still want paychecks and people are still tuning in so Criminal Minds will continue. I just won’t be watching them.

-Jack