As television blogger, I don't put as much importance on season and series premieres as the early episodes that follow. Consistency is also an vital factor to truly gauging the quality of a television show, and the later episodes have benefited or suffered from studio notes and over-analysis, and is closer to discovering its true identity.
As a rule, I give new shows at least three episodes to earn a full season investment. Unbelievably, it's already that time in the season, so it's time for my Fall TV Report Card. And I will start with some of this season's most-anticipated new shows, including The Good Place, Conviction and more…
Monster hunters Sam and Dean Winchester have faced hundreds of formidable foes on their never-ending quest to rid America of evils. A powerful yellow-eyed demon. A human-eating leviathan posing as a businessman-turned-politician, and even the devil himself.
But nothing is more devastating than its latest foe: Supernatural's own writers.
As I wrote last May, Supernatural's last season was problematic at best despite high-point episodes in "Just My Imagination," "Baby" and "Red Meat." But the final minutes of the season 11 finale in which the Winchesters' beloved mother, whose death is the reason they became hunters, was resurrected; and Sam was shot by a nasty representative of the British Men of Letters, a secret organization dedicated to collecting and archiving information on the paranormal, were promising.
As teased for months, season 12 finds Sam (Jared Padalecki) in the clutches of a British psychopath named Toni Belville, and Dean (Jensen Ackles), with their mother in tow, is determined to track him down. Dean, the consummate badass, even channels his inner Liam Neeson with a "Taken" style threat to Sam's kidnappers and yet it ends with more shark abuse than bad guy thumping. How did it all go so horrifically wrong?
I am happily navigating the ocean of new television searching for my next fangirl island. One of them happens to have a baseball field on it. Fox’s much-anticipated new series, Pitch, and is a grand slam.
Starring Kylie Bunbury, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Michael Beach, and with a big assist from Major League Baseball, this emotional and riveting sports drama follows the fictional Ginny Baker, the first woman to play professional baseball.
Here are 5 reasons you should catch this Pitch—one of the best new shows of the season.
I'm going to keep it 100: I hated the majority of Empire's second season. It popped-and-locked into the sophomore slump with messy, ill-explained storylines and was jam-packed with guest stars (Chris Rock as a creepy cannibalistic prison kingpin? Sure!). Luckily, the stacked cast—featuring Emmy nominee Taraji P. Henson, Terrence Howard and Jussie Smollett—was able to elevate the material, so it was at least watchable.
Prior to Wednesday’s premiere, the powers that be made big promises to re-center the lion's share of the focus to the Lyon family. And like a revitalized singer armed with a divorce album, Empire staged one hell of a comeback.
When I was a little girl, The Cosby Show more than just appointment TV, it was sacred viewing. Our chores and homework had to be done, and my sister and I had to be ready for bed before it aired. Despite the dozens of rape allegations surrounding Bill Cosby, those memories of being piled on the couch in my fluffy pink robe with my family laughing at the squeaky-clean shenanigans of an affluent clan in Brooklyn are some of my most cherished.
I was reacquainted with that unabashed night-before-Christmas joy in the days leading up to the premiere of Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey's Queen Sugar (the two-night premiere brought in record-breaking ratings for the OWN Network). Unlike Bill Cosby’s wholesome sitcom, this multi-generational drama loosely based on the novel by Natalie Baszile methodically focuses on the cracks and imperfections of a dysfunctional, but loyal family as they grapple with tragedy, trials of life, and the maddening realities of being black in America.
Like the Huxtables, the saga of the Bordelons will redefine standards and expand the confining limitations of black television.
Unfortunately there are only a good 11 viewing hours in one day, so missing the first-run fandemonium of great television shows is a depressing inevitability. While other Americans are finishing up their holiday shopping, I’m happy to spend it curled up on the couch with my iPad.
Enter Netflix, a digital vending machine, dispensing alternate universes just aching to be explored at your leisure. The rabbithole I happily and obsessively tumbled down landed me in Pawnee, Indiana: a small town that's "first in friendship and fourth in obesity." The Emmy-nominated "Parks and Recreation” (2009-2015) starring Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, Adam Scott, Retta and Chris Pratt before the movie star slim-down.
I expected an off-beat workplace drama I could half-watch while cooking dinner or use as background noise at work. What I discovered was a quirky, laugh-til-you-cry, cry-til-you laugh modern comedy that was as inspiring and intelligent as it was upbeat and hilarious.
The beauty and brilliance of “Parks and Recreation,” beyond the fantastic and varied cast and the drool-inducing continuity, is that Leslie Knope is a controlling, work-obsessed basketcase, and she never apologizes for it. While a romantic comedy would spin her neurosis, intelligence and dogged ambition as something to be cured by a man, Leslie, her motley crew of employees and friends, and eventual her husband are rightfully awed and inspired by her boundless energy and dumbfounded by her worth ethic. She’s pluckier version of Olivia Pope without all the murder or fashion sense.
With Donald Trump running for President a platform of hate, bullying and "I got guy" tactics, it's refreshing to visit a town where the Big Bad is Ron Swanson, Leslie's boss and dear friend who loves her more than he hates government, or Councilman Jamm, who opposes Leslie because he covets her attention.
"Parks and Recreation" also paints a vivid and bizarre mural of Pawnee, Indiana in a Simpsonian way through its unique local customs (drinking from a water fountain by putting the entire thing into your mouth); celebrities (delusional talk show host Joan Callamezzo and the late Li'l Sebastian); and businesses (Sweetums Corporation and Paunch Burger). It also features a variety of zany characters: my favorite being the stoner animal control guys, the Sapperstein twins and April's macabre friend Orin. Although nothing tops watching Leslie continuously achieve and surpass her goals and the crazy-strange-perfect love affair between April, a macabre college intern and Andy, the airhead musician with a heart of gold.
In “Scandal's" third episode, a frantic, resigned Mellie whisked around her posh closet of the residence in search of a mason jar of moonshine. As she did so, she ranted about the spirit-crushing doldrums of being the first lady—it was all lunching and decorating and smiling and sacrificing. And she was glad to be rid of it. Bellamy Young absolutely nailed that complicated (and hopefully Emmy-worthy) scene in which a long-scorned wife passed the baton of her marital duties to the love-blinded mistress. It was foreshadowing of what was to come, two women on opposing trajectories eclipsing each other on newfound paths.
Just five episodes later, Olivia Pope, bereft but resolute, scrambles around the same closet seeking out the inherited moonshine to soften the pain of the decisions she just made, the delicate situation she just handled.
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside”—arguably the best episode of the season—catalogs the deaths of professional fixer Olivia Pope and the “Shut-Up-And-Smile” First Lady Mellie Grant. It ushers in the age of Senator Grant—a Republican woman who survives a 16-hour, Wendy Davis-inspired filibuster to protect the funding for Planned Parenthood. The brilliance of the moment is that it essentially makes use of her years as a governor's wife and a First Lady, entertaining the Washington elite in stilettos. She lists the insane federal commissions that have guaranteed funding, which Shonda Rhimes confirmed via Twitter are real. The most absurd: a study on gambling habits of monkeys and ‘hangry’ individuals.
Just as Mellie is about surrender, as “the elasticity of her urethra” is about to snap on the House floor, the Vice President arrives so Mellie can yield to her and take a long overdue bathroom break, thanks to Olivia. She offers encouragement to Mellie when she is wavering, “You’re the biggest bitch I know. Don’t tell me you can’t do this.” Senator Grant can and does complete the “longest filibuster in modern times” to protect the rights of American women. It's a bold statement, and it is more glorious than even I could imagine for one of my favorite characters.
There is a certain comfort and frustration when watching your favorite, long-running television show. Like putting on an old sweater, it fits perfectly, provides some warmth, and you already know where will chafe and irritate. I felt such when tuning into "Out Of The Darkness, Into The Fire" and "Form and Void", the first two episodes of "Supernatural's" eleventh season.
Dean (Jensen Ackles) emerges from The Darkness as gorgeous as ever, barking orders and omitting information. Sam trails behind him, hair whipping up in the wind, obediently swallowing his concerns. They wander through a town of poor, mostly dead humans, save the pretty new deputy with the shockingly blue eyes, and prepare to kill their way out of the latest version of the end of days, and fly out of town to save Castiel.
It’s reminiscent of season 2's "Croatoan" or Season 3's "Jus In Bello" or season 5's “Good God, Y’all” or "99 Problems” but peppered with enough one-liners and gore to keep things interesting.
"Supernatural" is an old dog, yet I’m still entertained by the repetitive tricks. Except over the summer, they seemed to have learned new ones.
In any race, the beginning and the end are the most important, and usually the most difficult. So it’s understandable that the season 2 premiere of The CW’s “The Flash” weakest moments in an otherwise intense episode came at the top and bottom of the hour.
The trailing seconds of last season’s finale saw Barry being sucked up in a massive blackhole created in the space-time continuum. “The Man Who Saved Central City” opens six months later with Team Flash disbanded and Barry shouldering the blame for Eddie's death like the giant-hearted superhero that he is.
Even if he is the fastest man live, Barry is spreading himself too thin. He has inherited the now abandoned Star Labs as well as the debt and the ghosts that come with it. He still daylights as Central City CSI, moonlights as The Flash and he even re-builds the businesses destroyed by The Singularity (though I wonder why they haven’t been repaired already. Does insurance cover not cover damage created by black holes?)
So why is Barry so guilt-ridden he doesn’t feel worthy enough to attend his own celebration? And why is Caitlin noticeably absent?
Because Ronnie is also dead.
Barry used his speed to stabilize The Singularity, and Firestorm used his incendiary gifts to merge it, and was presumably caught in the blast. To Barry, Ronnie is “The Man Who Saved Central City” and he is the man killed him. Thus, he hogs the blame and blitzes into missions alone.
And you already know how successful that is. Barry gets his beautiful face smashed in by a radiation-guzzling hulk, and even that doesn’t knock some sense into him. Because that’s Joe’s job. In the flashback young Barry, grieving for a dead mother and an imprisoned father, is always angry. It’s Joe gives Barry permission to be sad and seek comfort. “I got you,” he says both times.
Joe West's (Jesse L. Martin) effortless wisdom and palpable love for Barry is the beating heart that charges “The Flash.” When combined with Grant Gustin’s emotive powers and adorkableness, they create SuperFeels. They're able to induce ugly-cries with a single monologue and whip up angst with a slight furrow of the brow!
The rest of the episode boasts some wicked surprises, namely a new take-charge Iris West reassembling Team Flash; Cisco’s strange snap-back to another world or alternate timeline; and Harrison Wells confessing to Nora Allen’s murder which frees Barry’s father!!!
As an avid television viewer, epic highs immediately makes me tense for the gut-wrenching, I-might-have-to-call-in-sick-to-work-because-Barry-Allen’s-life-fell-apart lows. Is Papa West going to contract cancer? Is Caitlin going to angst about Ronnie’s death for a second consecutive season? Is Iris West going to lose her fabulous wardrobe?!
The other shoe drops, and it’s a maddening one: Henry West, literally 15 minutes after being sprung from the clink and with Barry making plans to move in together and make up for a missing decade with his father, is leaving Central City. So Barry can be The Flash. Huh?! It’s obvious that Joe West is Barry’s father, blood relation or not, and Henry would have be sidelined somehow to keep their relationship going. I was worried the Atom Smasher would attack the prison and kill Henry West before he could be freed. As painful as that would have been, it would have made more sense. Almost anything else would have. But Barry’s life mission has been to reunite his family, and the second he’s done it, Henry vanishes before the frosting on his own celebratory cake dries.
I’m not new to superhero series, cinematic or animated, and the “love and family is a distraction” a stupid, overused cliché that needs to die a death worthy of the worst villains.
However, I may be more a little happy that Joe’s position as Barry’s surrogate father, cheerleader and shrink is firmly intact, especially since Jay Garrick and his dorky helmet arrives with an ominous warning.
Ultimately, “The Flash’s” season opener was a thrilling, intense sprint of an hour that was empowered by Gustin and Martin's soulful performances and stunning visual effects, but was tripped up by hurdles of Henry West’s ridiculous excuses for departing and narrative issues. Thankfully, this season is a marathon, not a sprint. Grade: B+
Best Moments: Cisco’s seemingly ad-libbed “fo’ real?!” when Jay Garrick bypasses Star Labs’ newly upgraded security system. And the Flash symbol or is it a Flash Light?
What did you think? Share your thoughts below!
The series premiere of ABC’s heavily promoted FBI drama "Quantico" accomplishes the near-impossible—it hits harder than the hype prophesized, and it may very well be the best new show of the season.
Taking a narrative and style points from ABC’s sudsy predecessors, “How To Get Away With Murder” and “Revenge,” “Quantico” pulls double-duty by sweeping from a current storyline in which heroine Alex Parrish (Indian-born Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra) is framed for a September 11-esque terrorist attack to past arcs FBI training that casts her fellow Quantico recruits in a suspicious light.
The pilot does countless things right, particularly the characterization of Alex. She is a tough, capable woman but doesn’t sacrifice emotion to be so. When she’s scared, she shakes and pleads. When she’s upset, she cries. When she wants to have sex with a man she just met, she does so and isn’t ashamed to admit it. When terrifying things happen, she acts, even if that includes killing her father as a teenager or escaping FBI custody to figure out who framed her.
And the list could be endless as her fellow Quantico recruits all have secrets running the gambit from tragic—Shelby’s parents died in during September 11 terrorist attacks—to horrific—Eric raped and impregnated a 14-year-old Malawian girl who died after getting an illegal abortion—to mundane—Caleb’s parents are both FBI agents and pulled major strings to get him into Quantico—to so jaw-droppingly awesome I wouldn’t dream of spoiling it.
“Quantico” doesn’t just walk the line between primetime soap and genuine drama, it moonwalks across it, thanks to nimble writing and acting from creator Josh Safran (“Smash”) and a varied and diverse cast that includes Johanna Braddy (“UnReal”), Aunjanue Ellis (“The Book Of Negroes”) and Jake McLaughlin (“Believe”). It also effortlessly transitions between past and present while incorporating enough breadcrumbs to lead to future bombshells without being too obvious or too subtle.
Admittedly, if “Quantico” burns through recruits as quickly as it does in the pilot, viewers will have difficulty rooting or caring about anyone. Caleb, the resident “gold-plated boy" with the self-deprecating one-liners, disappeared just as he became likable.
If “Quantico” can maintain their sexy-suspense “Homeland”-meets-“Grey’s Anatomy” vibe, Parrish and Co. will be thwarting terrorist attacks for years to come. Grade: A
What did you think of "Quantico"? Share your thoughts below.
Photo Credit: EW.com
Small Screen Girl
I am an unabashed pop culture and TV-aholic with no plans to ever seek treatment. Explore this blog and see just how deep my obsession goes.