ADVANCE REVIEW: ‘1600 Penn’ (NBC – Thursday, 9:30 p.m.)

EDITORIAL NOTE: To understand how we do our reviews, please refer to our review of Revolution, here.

1600 Penn PosterThe Gilchrists are just the average American family dealing with all the everyday issues – like a grown kid who’s forced to move back home, children who are smarter than their teachers and a stepmom (Jenna Elfman, “Dharma and Greg”) desperately trying to win over the kids. They’re loving, fun and a little crazy. In other words, just like everybody else. With one exception: they live in a very special house. The White House! Whether it’s entertaining foreign dignitaries, sneaking away for a night out, dealing with middle school crushes or putting out fires – figuratively and sometimes literally – there’s never a dull moment in the Gilchrist White House. For example, the First Son (Josh Gad, star of Broadway sensation “The Book of Mormon”) is one of the administration’s biggest liabilities, but also the glue that holds this family together. The President (Bill Pullman, “Independence Day,” “While You Were Sleeping”) knows too well that the only thing harder than being Head of State is being head of the family. Also starring are Martha MacIsaac (“Superbad”), Andre Holland (“Friends with Benefits”), Amara Miller (“The Descendants”) and Benjamin Stockham (“Sons of Tucson”).  “Modern Family” meets “The West Wing” in this election-year comedy from Emmy-winning executive producer/director Jason Winer (“Modern Family”). The executive producers are Winer, Gad and Jon Lovett (former White House speechwriter).  Winer also directed the pilot.  “1600 Penn” is produced by 20th Century Fox. – NBC

Score:     85 out of 100

Initial Impressions (May 22, 2012):  Yes!  Our prayers have finally been answered.  Bill Pullman is President of the United States, once again.  This is something we’ve wanted since Independence Day… we just weren’t expecting it to happen in comedy form.  Despite the limited information from the clip [above], just reading between the lines on this gives us a lot of insight as to the quality of this offering.  First, you’ve got two big leads in Bill Pullman and Jenna Elfman and you know they weren’t signing on to a crap show because they can be more selective with their roles.  More importantly, though, is the fact that the show is from the brains behind Modern Family which hopefully will mean nothing but good things.

Shawn: Yet another great new show from NBC.  Like I said initially, when you’ve got Pullman and Elfman leading the cast and the minds of Modern Family, that should really tell you what you need to know, and seriously, NBC, stop telling us about stars on these shows that were in Broadway hits.  Do you honestly think anyone watching a network television comedy on a Thursday night cares that Josh Gad was a star in The Book of Mormon?  I’ll give you a head’s up on this: they don’t and in fact most of your key demographic doesn’t even know what the holy-crap The Book of Mormon is other than in the context of the teenagers in matching short-sleeved, white dress shirts, bad ties and bicycle helmets that come knocking on their door on a Saturday afternoon.  The only reason I know what it is because I follow South Park and I know that it’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s baby.

All I need to know about Josh Gad is that he is flippin’ brilliant comedically and that is exactly what I was treated to when watching the pilot.  He’s so funny that if not for how good the other performances were, I would have had ignored them completely.  Pullman is fantastic, Elfman is fantastic as are the rest of the supporting cast and the show does an excellent job of portraying what appears to be just your average, typical middle-class suburban family who are now in the White House.  Seriously, it’s like watching the worst aspects of your own family dysfunction play itself out at the most famous address in the world.

And yes, 1600 Penn is absolutely absurd, but it’s done so cleverly and so heart-warmingly that you can’t help but to ignore the absurdity and appreciate it for what it is: just a great comedy.  Tim Goodman, resident hack at THR says that, “It’s obvious this is NBC’s answer to Modern Family,” but then again, that’s why I refer to Goodman as a hack. He just throws out whatever nonsense seems good on paper because he read the same show description we did.  The fact is, though, even with the creative talents of Modern Family behind 1600 Penn, it is NOTHING like it.

Again, it’s the absurdity factor that’s the big difference.  Modern Family works because of its mockumentary format in that the setup is that the Dunphys/Pritchetts are indeed a real family.  There’s none of that with 1600 Penn.  It’s pie-in-the-face, seltzer-down-the-trousers slapstick from the opening sequence.  There’s an immediate wink to the audience and we all get it… except for Tim Goodman.  Bravo, NBC.

Chance of Renewal:  80%

I seriously cannot fathom how anyone but the most tight-assed of newspaper TV critics wouldn’t like this show.  But then again, mid-season comedy replacements don’t have a good history.  I’m going with more likely to be renewed than not.

Watch the pilot of 1600 Penn, right now, ahead of the January 10th premiere, here.  Cable subscribers, you can also watch it OnDemand, as well.

ADVANCE REVIEW: ‘The Mindy Project’ (FOX – Tuesday, 9:30 p.m.)

EDITORIAL NOTE: To understand how we do our reviews, please refer to our review of Revolution, here.

THE MINDY PROJECT is a new single-camera comedy from Emmy Award-nominated writer/producer and New York Times best-selling author Mindy Kaling (“The Office”) that follows a woman who, despite having a successful career, desperately needs to break bad habits in her personal life. After all, how many doctors make inappropriate toasts at their ex-boyfriend’s wedding, nearly drown at the bottom of a stranger’s pool and get arrested for disorderly conduct just moments before having to deliver a baby? Funny, impatient and politically incorrect, MINDY LAHIRI (Kaling) can quote every romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan that exists. She loves the good ones and the bad ones, because the girl always gets the guy. Mindy is determined to be more punctual, spend less money, lose weight and read more books – all in pursuit of becoming a well-rounded perfect woman…who can meet and date the perfect guy. Mindy is a skilled OB/GYN and shares a practice with a few other doctors, none of whom make life any easier for her. JEREMY REED (British writer/comedian Ed Weeks) is the walking definition of total bad news. He not only shares a practice with Mindy, but sometimes her bed as well – despite her best efforts to resist. He is funny, self-absorbed and super sexy. In contrast, DANNY CASTELLANO (Chris Messina, “Damages”) is a hothead and guys’ guy who has a habit of stealing Mindy’s patients. Danny criticizes her for everything, including her struggling love life and her lack of professionalism – even though it’s obvious to everyone except Mindy that he secretly admires her work. His blue-collar childhood gives him a big chip on his shoulder, but he is a dedicated physician, which Mindy can’t stand to admit because he’s always getting on her case. Rounding out the office staff are the receptionists – BETSY PUTCH (Zoe Jarman, “Huge”), young, earnest and easily excitable, who thinks the world of Mindy and is always trying to impress her; and SHAUNA DICANIO (newcomer Dana DeLorenzo), a self-assured Jersey Girl who is indifferent to Mindy, always knows where the cool party is and carries a poorly concealed torch for Danny. Mindy is in constant communication with her beloved best friend from college, GWEN GRANDY (Anna Camp, “The Good Wife”), who also happens to be the governor’s daughter. Gwen is a hilarious, sometimes too-blunt friend, and secretly a former carefree party girl (which only Mindy seems to remember). Although Gwen is now happily married to a financial analyst, with a six-year-old daughter, this lawyer-turned-Pilates mom remains squarely in Mindy’s corner. As Mindy attempts to get her career off the ground and meet a guy who passes her red flag test (no drug habits, no skinny jeans and no secret families, among others), only time will tell if she gets her romantic comedy ending. – FOX

Score:     20 out of 100

Initial Impressions (June 5, 2012):  Just when we think FOX has comedies figured out, they hit us with this. We’re not really sure what the big deal with Mindy Kaling is.  She was funny on The Office but even that wore thin over the years and to be blunt, she’s kind of impossible to look at and we don’t mean that in a good way. So, that being said, we’re a little perplexed as to why anyone would think that she’s prime material to have her own series.  As awful as Whitney is,  Whitney Cummings is at least smoking hot and actually is quite funny.  It makes sense that she would get her own show.  This really doesn’t and not for nothing, this show doesn’t look completely horrible if you judge it exclusively on the merits of every other performance besides hers.  She’s not just bland and again, difficult to look at, but she’s just playing the same Kelly Kapoor character that she played for eight years on The Office.  Also, just from watching this clip, does it honestly look particularly original?

Shawn: One thing I can say about the new shows this fall is that they have been predictable, if nothing else.  It also seems that every show so far has exceeded expectations as far as either its level of brilliance or level of suckitude© is concerned.  The Mindy Project  is no different.

Simply put, the show is not funny and we have no idea why idea why Kevin Reilly at FOX allowed this to be greenlit after seeing the awful pilot.  Again, we are just baffled as to why Mindy Kaling is such a hot property in Hollywood.  She’s not funny and she looks awful.  Harsh?  Yep, but you know what? This is an industry based on superficial aesthetics and no one wants to look at unattractive people on a 55-inch TV in high-definition… ESPECIALLY when they are trying to lie to us and convince us that they are attractive and, as Mindy put it… hot.  Does it work on shows like The Office? Sure, but the reason why is that you go into The Office knowing that it’s a mockumentary and that the people on the show are SUPPOSED to represent real life.  That’s not what’s going on with your standard sitcom/drama.  Everything is exaggerated and your headliners are supposed to be attractive… unless of course the gimmick is that they aren’t supposed to be (see: Ugly Betty).

The Mindy Project seems intent on reminding us (and convincing us) ad nauseam how hot and sexy she is, in fact that really seems like what the whole purpose of the show is, and no, before you say it, it’s not supposed to be ironic because every other character on the show apparently thinks she’s hot, as well, so they’re just going to run with the big lie.

“Tattling is what a little girl does.  When a hot woman does it, it’s called ‘whistleblowing.'”

There are two scenes in the pilot where she is in the middle of the screen and we honestly thought that somehow the “stretch” option on the TV had accidentally been selected… no joke, you’ll know them when you see them.  Are we spending a lot of time focusing on her physical appearance?  Absolutely, but you know what? We’re not spending nearly as much time on the subject as the show does.

This is really one of the most self-emulating and narcissistic shows we’ve seen in years, if not ever, and what’s worse is that the industry is enabling this behavior.  Mindy Kaling has created an idealized version of herself where she is a doctor and a super model.  This is beyond a fantasy and none of the jokes work because they all revolve around this stupid premise.

The plot is stupid and disjointed and the characters are completely unlikable and unrelatable.  All in all, this show is absolutely unwatchable and cameos by Ed Helms can’t help it. Pass on this.

Chance of Renewal: 0%

We simply cannot see how audiences aren’t going to be immediately annoyed by this awful mess and steer away from it and FOX has no tolerance for failure.  We doubt this makes it to midseason.

Watch the pilot of The Mindy Project, right now, ahead of the September 25th premiere, here.

ADVANCE REVIEW: ‘Animal Practice’ (NBC – Wednesday, 8:00 p.m.)

EDITORIAL NOTE: To understand how we do our reviews, please refer to our review of Revolution, here.

Meet Dr. George Coleman (Justin Kirk, “Weeds”), a top-dog New York veterinarian. With an unorthodox style of operating, George’s success comes from his undeniable gift with animals of all kinds. That is, all but the human kind. Dorothy Crane (Joanna Garcia Swisher) once held the key to George’s heart, but today she also holds the key to the family business as she takes over Crane Animal Hospital.  Not only is she George’s new boss, but her romantic history with him and her lack of experience with animals is seriously cramping his style.  Dorothy is whip-smart and ambitious, and she’s going to make George pay for the past.  Needless to say, he’s determined not to make any changes in his (animal) kingdom — which includes poker games with a resident capuchin monkey.  Also starring are Tyler Labine (“Reaper,” “Sons of Tucson”) as Dr. Doug Jackson, a vet who’s great with animals but hapless in matters of the heart, Bobby Lee (“Harold & Kumar”) as Dr. Yamamoto, and newcomer Betsy Sodaro as Angela.  “Animal Practice” is a production of Universal Television and American Work Inc.  The executive producers are Scot Armstrong (“The Hangover Part II,” “Old School”) and Ravi Nandan (“Best Friends Forever”) of American Work Inc. (“Best Friends Forever”) along with Emmy Award winners Joe & Anthony Russo (“Community,” “Arrested Development”).  “Animal Practice” was written by Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka (“The Sitter”), who also serve as executive producers.  Gail Lerner (“Happy Endings”) also is an executive producer.  Directed by the Emmy-winning Russo brothers, “Animal Practice” is a comedy where the animals are running the asylum. – NBC

Score:     65 out of 100

Initial Impressions (May 20, 2012):  OK… we really hate to admit this, but this show looks insanely funny.  It’s certainly a new take on the standard comedy.  It’s ridiculously irreverant and sarcastic and it seems quite brilliant.  Without even looking at the show description, it was pretty obvious that there was involvement from the folks at Community because it definitely has that kind of vibe to it. Honestly, the funniest moment in any television trailer ever is in this clip at the end with the turtle races.  Not going to spoil it, but you’ll know why when you see it.

Shawn: *Sigh* And here we have the first review we have to do where the episode did not live up to the expectations of the trailer.  As you can tell, we really were expecting a lot out of Animal Practice, but unfortunately, it’s not nearly as good as it looks. Don’t get me wrong, it’s  not horrible, and in fact it’s actually pretty good but there is certainly nothing to make it stand out from any other comedy.  That’s a huge problem on two fronts.

Yes, it works… always.

First, we hate comedies to begin with around here so a comedy has to really blow our socks off in order to get high praise from us.  Second, this show has the best, can’t-lose gimmick of all time on it that should make it incredible: animals… and specifically a well-trained monkey that acts like a human.  It’s the Doctor Dolittle effect.  Those films suck, but the animals are so flippin’ hilarious that you are fooled into thinking they’re good.  Mind you, those are talking animals, but you don’t need a monkey to talk to be hilarious.  Just dress it up in a clown suit or in a beret and have it be an alcoholic… or make it an on-staff veterinary doctor… like in Animal Practice.

The problem is that the monkey isn’t making enough appearances… yes, you read that right, I’m complaining about the lack of the gimmick monkey.  I don’t have much of a choice because, overall, the show isn’t that great.  Sure, it’s got some really good gags, but George (Justin Kirk) doesn’t have nearly the funny Scrubstype likability and sarcasm I was hoping for and that’s not a good sign for your lead… even in a dopey comedy.  Making matters worse, there is ZERO chemistry between George and Dorothy (Joanna Garcia Swisher) and they were supposed to be an item and it’s obvious that the writers are going to rehash that romance.

Dr. Rizzo: We need mooooar…

The truth is that Animal Practice is more straight-up sitcom than it is wacky spoof and that’s not how it was billed.  A lot of the characters are very cookie-cutter, however, the few that aren’t kind of save the show such as Dr. Yamamoto (Bobby Lee) and Dr. Doug Jackson (Tyler Labine) who are both pretty brilliant.  So does Dr. Rizzo (the monkey), when he actually makes an appearance.

So, while I still recommend the show, the pilot wasn’t nearly as good as it really should have been and I’m a bit disappointed.  Let’s hope it picks up in subsequent episodes.

As a bit of an aside, I had to change the settings in the comments section about five minutes into posting this trailer on YouTube to make it so that all comments had to go through me before they were posted and I had to disable the voting.  Why?  Welllllllllll, because butt-hurt Community fans, redirected from a Reddit Community fan page, were flooding the comments section with negative comments and ratings because they think Animal Practice is why Community got moved to Friday nights with only a 13 episode order.  Chances are those same crybabies who don’t get that the decision on Community was made the moment Comedy Central picked it up for syndication in 2013 to get it to 100 episodes will probably flood this review, as well.  So, crybaby Community fans, we love your show, too, but seriously… get the holy f*ck over yourselves.  It’s an NBC sitcom, not Downton Abbey… and we’ll be filtering your comments, here, as well.

Watch the pilot of Animal Practice, right now, ahead of the September 26th premiere, here.  Please note, this is the only chance other than Video OnDemand services through cable providers you will be able to see the pilot.  NBC will be airing the second episode on premiere night, not the pilot.

Chance of Renewal:  50%

…and that’s generous.  On any other network, we would probably say not likely because it’s difficult for us to see audiences getting very excited out-of-the-gate for this, however, this is the network that renewed Whitney, so it’s a toss-up, and yes, you are correct we use the Whitney benchmark a lot when it comes to NBC.

REVIEW: The Redeye Rogue Report: ‘The New Normal’ Serves Up The Same Old Normal Comedy

These days, families come in all forms – single dads, double moms, sperm donors, egg donors, one-night-stand donors… It’s 2012 and anything goes. Bryan (Andrew Rannells, “Girls,” “The Book of Mormon”) and David (Justin Bartha, “The Hangover”) are a Beverly Hills couple and they have it all. Well, almost. With successful careers and a committed and loving partnership, the one thing missing is a baby. And just when they think the stars will never align, enter Goldie (Georgia King, “One Day”), an extraordinary young woman with a checkered past. A Midwestern waitress and single mother looking to escape her dead-end life and small-minded grandmother (Ellen Barkin, “Ocean’s Thirteen”), Goldie decides to change everything and move to L.A. with her precocious 8-year-old daughter.  Desperate and broke – but also fertile – Goldie quickly becomes the guys’ surrogate and quite possibly the girl of their dreams.  Surrogate mother, surrogate family. “The New Normal” is produced by 20th Century Fox Television and Ryan Murphy Productions.  Murphy serves as creator/executive producer and director along with executive producer/creator/writer Ali Adler (“Glee,” “Chuck”) and executive producer Dante Di Loreto (“Glee,” “American Horror Story”). -NBC

Rating:     50 out of 100

Redeye Rogue

There are people who are ready to support The New Normal or destroy it, based solely upon its subject matter.  Some reviewers have taken offense to the overtness of the show, calling foul on preachiness and lessons.

But seriously, all drama/comedy carries with it an undercurrent of ‘lesson.’  Stories are in many ways, lessons, that teach us about life and how we face it.  Perhaps the lessons are just too “in your face” for some reviewers.

The New Normal, however, seems blind to the fact that the mechanism doing the preaching is an awful stereotype of  itself.

The Sassy Black chick indeed…

The show is not without merit.  Its heart is absolutely in the right place. Conservatives should rally around a show that is so blatantly pro-life.  Bebe Wood is astonishing, and I found myself chuckling at many of the gags revolving around her.

The thing about shows like this, is that they try so hard to be everything to everyone, while at the same time, changing hearts and minds.  Yet, astonishingly, it is exhibit “A” in its own argument.

If it could tone back the stereotypes, not paint in such broad strokes, we might have something  here.

‘Til then, I’m still holding on to my VHS collection of Bosom Buddies episodes.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I think it’s magnificent that you have a Bosom Buddies collection.

For a different take, go here.

ADVANCE REVIEW: ‘Go On’ (NBC – Tuesday, 9:00 p.m.)

EDITORIAL NOTE: To understand how we do our reviews, please refer to our review of Revolution, here.

Misery loves company. Unless you’re sportscaster Ryan King (Matthew Perry, “Friends,” “Mr. Sunshine”) who thinks misery should just be left alone. After taking some time off, Ryan – who recently lost his wife in a car accident – is now ready to get back to work. And while he seems like his same old charming, cocky self, his boss won’t set him back on the air until he seeks counseling. So, Ryan reluctantly joins a support group with one goal in mind: get in, get out and get back on the radio as quickly as possible. Played by the fast-talking, sarcastic, and charismatic Perry, Ryan gives grief a real run for its money. Within one day of group therapy, he hijacks the meeting and suddenly the downtrodden are cajoled into playing a game of “who’s got the best sob story?” And in no time all of them are battling it out, trying to one-up each other’s despair. Now, this is fun! Ryan’s total lack of interest in healing might be just what this group needs – and maybe, exactly what he needs to move on with his life. Also starring are Tony winner Laura Benanti (“The Playboy Club”), Julie White (“Transformers”), Suzy Nakamura (“Dodgeball”), Khary Payton (“General Hospital”) and Allison Miller (“Terra Nova”).  From the Emmy-winning writer and executive producer Scott Silveri (“Perfect Couples,” “Friends”) comes a new series that proves grief can be good.  Todd Holland (“Malcolm in the Middle”) and Karey Burke (“Free Agents,” “Miss/Guided”) also serve as executive producers.  The pilot was directed by Holland. “Go On” is a production of Universal Television, Dark Toy Entertainment and Silver & Gold Productions. – NBC

Score:     93 out of 100

Initial Impressions (May 20, 2012):  Art imitates life apparently, because, as we suggested the last time we had to review a Matthew Perry vehicle (Mr. Sunshine), his projects are simply an acting-out of his own issues with depression and other related mental illnesses (and addiction).  Go On appears to be his therapy and unlike Mr. Sunshine, it actually looks quite promising despite that even in its trailer there are some cringe-worthy moments for anyone who actually has ever had any involvement in actual therapy.  It looks like this is what you call your “dramedy” and Perry actually looks quite comfortable in this new role which is something he wasn’t with Mr. Sunshine.

Shawn: Like I said with The Mindy Project, these are getting easier and easier to call and once again, Go On is another new show that has completely exceeded our expectations.

Go On is way better than advertised and I take back everything I said before about Matthew Perry being milquetoast.  He’s brilliant in this and he just seems to be reveling in this role which he has clearly personalized.

As absurd as the premise is for anyone who has actually gone through group therapy, the show is just so damned funny that you can’t help to completely ignore the absurdity.  It actually reminds me a lot of Community in that each character is so different, diverse and funny for completely different reasons.  I laughed during this pilot more than I have laughed during any show since the first season of Modern Family.  I actually had to pause and rewind several times because I was laughing so hard that I missed the next gag.

Recently, I commented on a piece featured at one of my favorite sites, The Duffel Blog, which, if you don’t know is basically The Onion for members of the U.S. Armed Forces. The piece, entitled Army Struggles To Respond To Epidemic Of Suicides During Suicide Prevention Briefs got criticism from a reader (who claimed to be an active member) that the subject of suicide in the military was “nothing to joke about” and “disrespectful.”  My position was that the best humor lies in the satire of uncomfortable subjects and that’s the position I take with this show.  Having personal experience with the subject-matter of Go On (group therapy, that is… not Mrs. ‘Tastic being killed in a texting and driving accident.) I readily recognizes some of the situations that Go On presents in its completely exaggerated way and I certainly can appreciate the tongue-in-cheek approach to group therapy.

On the other side of the coin, Go On is careful not to minimize trauma and the loss of a loved one, whether that pain is King’s (Perry) or the rest of the characters of the cast who are all brilliantly funny and sympathetic in their own right.   This approach allows for introspection that is normally to be found in your typical comedy.

Go On is well-paced with incredibly likable and relatable characters and themes.  It’s hilarious and heart-warming at the same time without insulting the intelligence of the audience or alienating them.  Bravo to NBC on this one.

RedEye: Being a mentally challenged Cylon I always cringe when I see portrayals of mental illness on sit-coms, so it was with great trepidation that I approached Matthew Perry’s new series Go On. While I was never a fan of the respectable Friends, I did like Perry’s performance on that show. With Go On, Perry has found a show that truly fits his talents. The writing here is good… VERY good, and the comedy is extremely well-played – underplayed, in fact.

Chance of Renewal:  90%

If NBC can avoid f*cking this up, we simply cannot fathom how this isn’t a hit for the Peacock.

Watch the pilot of Go On, right now, ahead of the September 11th premiere, here.

ADVANCE REVIEW: ‘The New Normal’ (NBC – Tuesday, 9:30 p.m.)

EDITORIAL NOTE: To understand how we do our reviews, please refer to our review of Revolution, here.

These days, families come in all forms – single dads, double moms, sperm donors, egg donors, one-night-stand donors… It’s 2012 and anything goes. Bryan (Andrew Rannells, “Girls,” “The Book of Mormon”) and David (Justin Bartha, “The Hangover”) are a Beverly Hills couple and they have it all. Well, almost. With successful careers and a committed and loving partnership, the one thing missing is a baby. And just when they think the stars will never align, enter Goldie (Georgia King, “One Day”), an extraordinary young woman with a checkered past. A Midwestern waitress and single mother looking to escape her dead-end life and small-minded grandmother (Ellen Barkin, “Ocean’s Thirteen”), Goldie decides to change everything and move to L.A. with her precocious 8-year-old daughter.  Desperate and broke – but also fertile – Goldie quickly becomes the guys’ surrogate and quite possibly the girl of their dreams.  Surrogate mother, surrogate family. “The New Normal” is produced by 20th Century Fox Television and Ryan Murphy Productions.  Murphy serves as creator/executive producer and director along with executive producer/creator/writer Ali Adler (“Glee,” “Chuck”) and executive producer Dante Di Loreto (“Glee,” “American Horror Story”) – NBC

Score:     33 out of 100

Initial Impressions (May 20, 2012):  Remember how we said all but a couple shows look great?  Well this is the first one that looks horrible.  Ryan Murphy is simply not content with having a show without a a political agenda that serves to mock and insult middle-America.  The problem we have with this obvious and vulgar attempt of one-upping the brilliant Modern Family is that even in the trailer it’s done with such a sense of mean-spiritedness and political preachiness that it puts David E. Kelley’s crap to shame. Don’t believe us, simply watch the trailer.  Three times they made a point to focus on the Ohio license plates on the car (perhaps this is a not so subtle attempt by the producers to make Ohio voters feel guilty and remind them they are in a battleground state this November?) and then they made the point to portray the main character’s grandmother’s as a small-minded white bigot and homophobe… because, of course, all white people from the Midwest over 30 are bigoted homophobes.  And the  loudmouth, stereotypical black woman (who admits that she’s a thief, thereby promoting yet another stereotype) bawling out the grandmother and making a reference to Calista Gingrich (a name for when 95% of the audiences hear it they will collectively say, “who?”) was a nice touch, as well.

So, the bottom line is that people from Ohio are small-minded bigots and homophobes and will do anything for money and that Calista Gingrich is one as well because of her haircut. Fantastic.  Oh, did we mention that all the agenda advancing aside, the show looks like an absolute disjointed mess filled with nothing but bad sitcom clichés.  So, yeah, it’s got that going for it, as well.

Shawn: The New Normal has been sparking more controversy than any comedy in recent history and it hasn’t even officially aired a single episode.  We would like to state how proud we were to be included in the controversy by NBC Universal personally declaring war against the ‘Tastic over their new flagship sitcom that they apparently think is going to make people forget about how great ABC’s Modern Family is.

“Oh… how’s that,” you say?  Well, here’s how the story goes:

Any time we do a preview or review of a television series, the first thing we do is to go to the YouTube channel of whatever network the show is on and immediately download their official trailers and upload them to our own YouTube Channel.  We do this for two reasons; first, the networks have a tendency to remove their trailers after a couple of months, especially if a show has been unceremoniously canceled quicker than expected, and what happens is that if we use the network’s YouTube embed code, it winds up leaving a big fat hole right in the middle of our piece. Second, and more importantly, we do this to foster debate, criticism and commentary that the networks tend to filter out on their own YouTube channels. The networks generally don’t care if we post their videos, usually because it’s one more outlet to advertise their show on and there are usually far more users going to NBC’s YouTube channel than TV-Tastic’s dopey channel. The New Normal‘s trailer was no exception but surprisingly to us, it quickly became one of our most popular trailers.

The problems came because of the comments and the debate.  While fans of Andrew Rannells and Ryan Murphy’s Glee gushed obnoxiously about how great this show looked and what a hit it would be, we begged to differ, expressing the same concerns about the show in the comments section that we did on the blog and furthermore expressing our opinion that we felt the show would fail because the bottom-line is that it’s an agenda-driven show and audiences are tired of being preached to, regardless of the content.  For this opinion, we were called every name in the book and accused of being bigoted and homophobic when nothing could be further from the truth.

But then a funny thing happened back in July…

NBC Universal: Big Fat Crybabies

All of the sudden, the tide was beginning to turn with the content of the comments with more and more users agreeing with us that the show did indeed appear to be a mean-spirited, agenda-driven hit-piece and that it would be hurt because of that with audiences.  And that’s when NBC dropped the hammer and personally filed a copyright infringement claim against us to have the trailer taken down, claiming that it was a complete episode.  Y’see, it wasn’t just the mounting negative comments that the trailer was garnering so close to premiere date that got NBC Universal all butt-hurt over it… it was the fact that we had over 25,000 hits on the same video compared to their meager 4,000, outpacing them by nearly six to one.

So, basically, NBC Universal, who apparently consider themselves paragons of diversity and champions of fostering an open exchange of ideas, has no problem suppressing our “Fair Use” rights through intimidation and abuse of power if they don’t like what people think about their new shows.  And if you’re skeptical as to if that was really their motivation, we have ten other trailers of theirs on our page for new 2012 – 2013 shows and they haven’t said a word about them.  For the record, we talked to the right people about this issue and we don’t consider this matter closed with NBC Universal and we’ll keep you updated on the progress.

So, that is our little contribution to The New Normal controversy but that doesn’t even come close to the controversy caused by NBC’s Salt Lake affiliate, KSL, who has decided to not air the show in their prime-time lineup this fall.  And of course, the knee-jerk reaction by the folks at GLAAD, some members of the cast and the media is that KSL, a station owned by Mormons, is homophobic and won’t air a show because they hate “teh gays.”

Lunatic and shrew, Ellen Barkin posted this on Twitter:

“Anyone in Utah interested in @NBCTheNewNormal please clog up @ksl5tv feed 4 their blatantly homophic decision 2 not air the show #KSLBigots”

…and then this:

“Shame on u ‪@kslcom‬ not airing ‪@NBCTheNewNormal‬ So L&O SVU (rape & child murder) is ok? But loving gay couple having a baby is inappropriate?”

Ahhhh… good old Ellen Barkin… lovely and charming as usual.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

“Same-sex families are a beloved part of American television thanks to shows like Modern FamilyGlee and Grey’s Anatomy,” GLAAD president Herndon Graddick said in a statement. “While audiences, critics and advertisers have all supported LGBT stories, KSL is demonstrating how deeply out of touch it is with the rest of the country…”


“Graddick suggested that a meeting between Simpson and local LGBT families might change the CEO’s opinion.

“We know that if he would, he would see that not only are our families normal, but by citing ‘crude and rude’ content and refusing to affirm LGBT families, KSL and Mr. Simpson are sending a dangerous message to Utah,” Graddick said. “They should make that right.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa…

What exactly did KSL claim as their reasons for not airing The New Normal?

“Jeff SimpsonCEO of KSL parent company Bonneville International, revealed Friday the station planned not to air New Normal, citing crude language and offensive characterizations. The same station decided not to air NBC drama The Playboy Club last fall.

“After viewing the pilot episode of The New Normal, we have made the decision to keep it off our fall schedule,” Simpson said. “For our brand, this program simply feels inappropriate on several dimensions, especially during family viewing time.””

Gee, that’s funny, because not only does KSL not mention ANYTHING about the inappropriateness of a gay couple having a child or their opposition to such a portrayal on television, they point to the EXACT SAME ISSUES THAT WE HAVE WITH THE SHOW and that was before we even saw one episode!  Kind of curious, though, how similar the backlash against KSL is to the backlash we received without once complaining about the gay couple.  Folks, this is the same affiliate that refused to air The Playboy Club last year based on similar criteria and we’ll go so far as to state that this show is far more offensive based on those criteria, gay couple who wants a baby notwithstanding.

Now, is it possible that their opposition to the show is over the gay couple?  Sure, but all you can go on is their stated reasons which are very credible because they mirror our observations and those of others far more respectable than we are.  Sorry, but no one is in any position to judge what’s in someone’s heart by any other standard than their words and actions and KSL’s words and actions don’t pass the litmus test for “homophobic.”

And that’s the thing, The New Normal is far more mean-spirited and offensive than we could have imagined.  The characterizations are vile and stereotypical and as we noted, the only purpose of this show seems to be to stand on a soap box and tell Middle-America how evil and rotten they are and how wonderful and progressive Hollywood is.  It’s sycophantic and self-aggrandizing on a scale like we’ve never seen and it puts David E. Kelley to shame.

Ironically, the only saving grace to this show is the gay couple, even though they’re terribly stereotyped, as well.  Andrew Rannells and Justin Bartha are actually very charming and funny as the couple who desperately wants a child.  Their performances are quite heart-warming and endearing.

Unfortunately, though, those characters cannot save this show.  The problem is that they are supposed to be the main characters yet they are almost treated as background noise in favor of agenda-advancing on what is supposed to be a comedy.  It’s one thing to want to promote tolerance and acceptance, it’s another thing to do so by denigrating and alienating every one else in the process.

Oh, and did we mention, that other than Rannells and Bartha, the show is completely devoid of humor?

Chance of Renewal: 50%

Even though The New Normal is far worse than we expected, thanks to the very likable Andrew Rannells and Justin Bartha we are now leaning toward it probably lasting for the full season and perhaps a second season (instead of getting canceled after two episodes like we initially predicted before we saw the pilot).  This reminds us of Harry’s Law where audiences (like us)  really wanted to like the show but just got tired of being preached to so if it does in fact survive for a second season, that will be its last.  But then, again, this is NBC we’re talking about so it could be canceled after two episodes, so don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Watch the pilot of The New Normal, right now, ahead of the September 11th premiere, here.

For a different take on The New Normal, go here.

ADVANCE REVIEW: ‘Revolution’ (NBC – Monday, 10:00 p.m.)

EDITORIAL NOTE: OK, kids, this is how it works:  With all of the new shows of the season, we shared our first impressions of every new show of the season based on the show description and the trailer released by the network in our network previews.  With our fall reviews, however, we include both initial impressions and what we think after actually seeing said show.  The main reason why we do this is to A.) show how mystical our powers of perception are and B.) to show that we aren’t total pricks and can admit IF we’re wrong.

Also, where possible you’re going to see not only my review but either RedEye Rogue or Victor De Leon’s review, as well, so you can make up your own mind and not just go on the opinion of one idiot… we’ll give you two idiots to choose from… maybe more.

Our entire way of life depends on electricity. So what would happen if it just stopped working? Well, one day, like a switch turned off, the world is suddenly thrust back into the dark ages. Planes fall from the sky, hospitals shut down, and communication is impossible. And without any modern technology, who can tell us why?  Now, 15 years later, life is back to what it once was long before the industrial revolution: families living in quiet cul-de-sacs, and when the sun goes down lanterns and candles are lit. Life is slower and sweeter. Or is it?  On the fringes of small farming communities, danger lurks. And a young woman’s life is dramatically changed when a local militia arrives and kills her father, who mysteriously – and unbeknownst to her – had something to do with the blackout. This brutal encounter sets her and two unlikely companions off on a daring coming-of-age journey to find answers about the past in the hopes of reclaiming the future.  From director Jon Favreau (“Iron Man,” “Iron Man 2”) and the fertile imaginations of J.J. Abrams (“Lost,” “Person of Interest”) and Eric Kripke (“Supernatural”), comes a surprising “what if” action-adventure series, where an unlikely hero will lead the world out of the dark. Literally. The series stars Billy Burke (“The Twilight Saga”), Tracy Spiridakos (“Being Human”), Anna Lise Phillips (“Terra Nova”), Zak Orth (“Romeo + Juliet“), Graham Rogers (“Memphis Beat”), J.D. Pardo (“A Cinderella Story”),  Giancarlo Esposito (“Breaking Bad”), David Lyons (“The Cape”), Maria Howell (“The Blind Side”), Tim Guinee (“Iron Man”) and Andrea Roth (“Rescue Me”).  Kripke, Abrams, Favreau and Bryan Burk (“Lost,” “Star Trek”) serve as executive producers.  “Revolution” is produced by Bonanza Productions Inc. in association with Bad Robot Productions, Kripke Enterprises and Warner Bros. Television.  The pilot was directed by Favreau. – NBC

Score:     90 out of 100

Initial Impressions (May 20, 2012):  Fact: we like everything with J.J. Abrams’ name attached to it so we’re ridiculously biased about this, however… c’mon, now! This looks awesome… despite the fact the fact that it looks a whole lot like Terra Nova.  Let’s be honest: this is post-apocalyptic/new-earth stuff going on here, so, even though the basic concept is novel, the overall premise is pretty recycled… but that’s OK.  As we’ve noted, all Science Fiction today is recycled, it’s how it’s packaged that counts.  This is feature film quality all the way around with Abrams, John Favreau and Bryan Burk attached to it and it is great to see Breaking Bad‘s Giancarlo Esposito (Gus Fring) getting a regular gig, again. We can only imagine how much this costs to produce and props to NBC for picking it up.

Shawn: Well, this wasn’t particularly hard to call, but it should be noted that Revolution has far exceeded the expectations noted in the preview.  It’s really one of the best pilots that NBC has had in years.  In comparison, for example, it’s far better than The Event‘s was (which by the way, back in the early days of The ‘Tastic we gave more credit to it then it deserved based on the pilot) and believe it or not, it’s pretty straight-forward and linear so it won’t be particularly confusing and difficult to keep up with as you would imagine a series like this would be.

The characters in this show, although many of them taking their cues from Lost, are compelling and well-written and all swimming in various shades of gray.  It says a lot that right off the bat, 10 minutes into the pilot episode, a dilemma is immediately presented for the audience where they are forced to actually take sides against a hero and in favor of the villain.  That’s hardcore and it’s engaging and few shows would take a risk like that during the meet and greet.  Revolution is very reminiscent of AMC’s The Walking Dead in that it’s  just as much of an examination of the human condition as it is a mystery/adventure and story of survival.

Despite the fact that it’s always hanging over our heads and is an integral part of the show, Revolution is very careful not to dwell on what caused the blackout, only going so far as to provide a brief glimpse at the initial event and having the characters refer to it in a manner as to remind the audience exactly how devastating it would be if we suddenly were thrust into the 1800’s.  Early on, Aaron mentions that he used to work for a company called “Google” and had $80 million in the bank and would trade it all for a roll of Charmin.  It’s quick little pot-shots like that and a few limited flashbacks to fill in some blanks surrounding the plot and the characters that serve to effectively tell the story without being intrusive.

There’s plenty of well-choreographed action in Revolution and they have done a fantastic job creating a believable post-apocalyptic universe through the use of gorgeous set and scenic design, natural landscapes and very well-done CGI.  The performances range from serviceable to outstanding and unlike its predecessors, this is one epic SciFi serial that may actually stand a chance of survival with audiences.  Are there some corny, cringe-worthy moments?  Sure, it’s on network TV… what do you want? Overall, though, it’s an outstanding package.

Redeye Rogue:  Revolution  has indeed far exceeded expectations with the pilot episode   –  the buttery first episode, of which runs 43 minutes but feel like 43 seconds, covers all you need to know about this upcoming NBC series being brought to us by J.J. Abrams and Jon Favreau. The brilliant gem stands out among the class of sitcoms and police procedurals.  While not as good as The Walking Dead, there is some real potential here.  Simply put, RedEye Rogue would love to get this series alone behind the middle school. Loved the Jedi lunchbox… interesting that it wasn’t Star Wars, but Return of the Jedi.  Was this foreshadowing something?

Chance of Renewal: 60%

We were very concerned about Revolution based on the trailers and the show description because network audiences have not traditionally embraced SciFi serials.  That being said, post-apocalyptic themed shows that focus more on the characters and story development and use the SciFi theme as more of a backdrop than a device to beat the audience over the head with have been finding a loyal following over the past few years (see: Falling Skies and The Walking Dead as examples of success and Terra Nova as an example of the failure, focusing far too much on SciFi with traditional audiences).  Although we are cautiously optimistic, this show is so incredibly well-done and compelling that even we think it can overcome its handicap of being a SciFi show on network television.  So now, we’re calling it at better than 50%.

Watch the pilot of Revolution, right now, ahead if the September 17th premiere, here.

EXCLUSIVE ADVANCE REVIEW! ‘No Ordinary Family’ (ABC – Tuesdays, 8:00 p.m., Series Premiere September 28, 2010)

ABC Studios brings to life “The Incredibles”, the story of the Powells, an every day American family, who are too busy to spend time together. So they decide to take a trip as family as a way to reconnect, but on the way, their plane crashes. Now there’re back to their normal lives, but something seems to be happening to each one of them… they have superpowers. – ABC

The Preview (Posted on 9/15/2010):

First, let’s give credit to ABC for not only acknowledging right off-the-bat the most obvious criticism of this show – that being that it looks like Disney-Pixar’s The Incredibles – but outright OWNING it.  That’s the way to beat them at their own game!  And why wouldn’t Disney try to capitalize on their property in a prime time, live-action drama (for those of you that are unaware, Disney owns ABC)? Screw the nay-sayers, this show looks like a lot of fun and is my choice for sleeper hit of the season.  The concept is great and it’s not just a show for the family but it’s a show focused on the family as much as it is on their super powers.  Casting always tells me a lot about a show and No Ordinary Family is no different.  You’ve got Michael Chiklis as the dad (The Shield), Julie Benz as the mom (Dexter), Romany Malco (The 40 Year-Old Virgin) as the best friend and sidekick and lo and behold, Stephen Collins (7th Heaven) who appears to be our Lex Luthor-type.  I don’t care if I sound like a 10 year-old fanboy, I can’t wait to watch No Ordinary Family and apparently based on the amount of merchandising I saw over at the official site, ABC is pretty confident that they have a hit on their hands as well.

The Review:

8 out of 10

Last night, I was just about to do a review for the new HBO hit, Boardwalk Empire when Mrs. Tastic casually asked me when No Ordinary Family was premiering and I told her September 28th. Needless to say, I was very curious about her interest because she doesn’t like any of the shows that I do so I asked her why she was asking. She then informs me that she received an email offering her the chance to see an exclusive advanced screening of NOF. At this point I began pulling my hair out and I said, “… and you’re just telling me now???” She then said, “Well, what does it matter if it’s going to be on next week, anyway?”

This is when I discovered that apparently my wife is under the impression that I blog about miniature dachshunds.

To make matters worse, it turned out that she received the opportunity for the advance screening on September 14th and it was due to expire 90 minutes from when I learned about it.

AAAAARGH!!! (That was in celebration of International Talk Like a Pirate Day that was also on September 19th.)

Let’s begin, shall we?

Well, here’s the skinny: NOF is EXACTLY as advertised. Now, I know I said that about The CW’s Nikita, but it’s even more so in this case, and in fact a little to its detriment. I’m not saying that it’s not a good show (because, it really is) but that five-minute extended trailer literally gives away the majority of the pilot!

Bad move, ABC, because you took a lot of the fun out of the pilot episode. On the upside, though NOF is EXACTLY as advertised! Seriously, my preview is almost completely spot-on with its peremptory analysis.

As I noted last week, ABC does not hide from the premise of the live-action ‘Incredibles,’ it in fact they embrace it. Oh, and by the way, as an aside, the reason that the fancy wife got the invite for the advance screening to begin with: she’s registered at (am I a TV prophet or what?).  So, basically, yeah, you’ve got a live-action ‘Incredibles’ but with a bit more of an adult theme.

I have to admit, I think it’s a little borderline for the 8:00 p.m. time slot.  9:00 p.m. is probably a little more appropriate considering the violence and more adult themes than I would have expected.  For example, The Powells aren’t just losing touch with each other… they’re REALLY dysfunctional and they are a lot of heavy emotional issues. One of the things I found particularly odd was that Jim Powell (Chiklis) seems OK with the concept of his 16 year-old daughter having sex with her boyfriend… but only if she’s ready. Yeah, that whole sub-plot was particularly awkward for me as a father and thank God the boyfriend was gone halfway through the pilot (yeah, I know that’s a spoiler… don’t worry, he won’t be missed).

So, yes there’s some pretty heavy themes that were kind of unexpected and as you would expect there is some moderate to heavy violence for prime-time television. But don’t get me wrong, it’s not violent like Heroes and in reality I am very thankful that it is nothing like Heroes whatsoever. Nothing against Heroes, which I followed faithfully for three and a half seasons, but in retrospect Heroes was a VERY dark show and I’m very happy that this approach to super heroes is a lot more light-hearted, however, I would definitely not recommend this show for children under twelve or so. Like with anything else, your mileage may vary depending on your kid.

Besides everything that I already knew about this show going into it, there were two things that I picked up on that I really liked. The most obvious was the big twist at the end of the episode that made up for the fact that most of the pilot was given away in the aforementioned five-minute teaser (***grumble, grumble***) and the second thing that was just brilliant was the music. If you pay attention, you’ll notice it’s classic super hero music.  Just think of the scores from the Richard Donner Superman films by John Williams and the Ghostbusters score by Elmer Bernstein.  It’s a very nice and subtle nod to the genre.

NOF is a very good show and I think it’s going to develop a very strong following. The premise is solid and the cast is fantastic and the characters are very well-conceived (although the kids are a little melodramatic my taste) and it has all the comic-booky goodness you can ask for.

EXCLUSIVE ADVANCE REVIEW! Lone Star (FOX – Monday, 9:00 P.M. Series Premiere September 20, 2010)

TV-Tastic is proud to bring you an exclusive first look preview review of the new Monday night series on FOX, Lone Star.

ROBERT/BOB ALLEN (James Wolk) is a charismatic and brilliant schemer who has meticulously constructed two lives in two different parts of the state. He’s juggling two identities and two women in two very different worlds – all under one mountain of lies.

As “Bob,” he lives in Houston and is married to CAT (Adrianne Palicki), the beautiful daughter of CLINT THATCHER (Jon Voight), the patriarch of an ultra-wealthy Texas oil family. More than 400 miles away in the suburban west Texas town of Midland, he’s “Robert,” living a second life with his sweet, naive girlfriend, LINDSAY HOLLOWAY (Eloise Mumford). There he plays the perfect boyfriend while secretly bilking local investors of their savings. While in Houston, he’s a devoted husband, charming Cat and her family to cement his position in the rich family business he aims to clean out.

Bob has lived both lives successfully for years without arousing any far. While one brother-in-law, DREW THATCHER (Bryce Johnson), admires Bob, while his other brother-in-law, TRAMMELL THATCHER (Mark Deklin), is growing suspicious of his motives, and along with his wife, BLAKE (guest star Rosa Blasi), threatens to expose Bob. In this world of cons, everyone has ulterior motives. ALEX (guest star Andie MacDowell), a sharp, sexy, sophisticated East Coast transplant has her eye on only one prize: Clint. Eager to stake her claim, she will do and say anything to get what she wants.

With the cons closing in on him, Bob begins to fear his secret lives may unravel as he becomes divided by his love for two women; his loyalty to his father and mentor, JOHN (David Keith); and his respect for his father-in-law, Clint. Now as he tries to hold his two lives together, while fending off angry investors and the growing suspicions of those around him, Bob puts it all on the line hoping he can beat the odds, leave the schemes behind and keep two separate relationships afloat. – FOX

8 out of 10

One of the disadvantages of being an independent review blog is that the networks don’t send advance copies of the first three episodes of new shows to us like they do the mainstream entertainment media.  The upside is that I’m under no contractual agreement to withhold a review of a show within a certain period of time before that show has premiered, which brings us to the first ever in-depth review of Lone Star (one other guy did a review but it was like three sentences).  If you’re wondering how I was able to get my hands on a copy of the pilot,  I will refer you to this:

That’s me and the little man, Harrison playing in the Embassy Suites in San Diego a few weeks ago when the whole family went to San Diego Zoo, Sea World and Wild Animal Park.  Harrison is obsessed with remote controls (gee, I wonder where he gets that from) and shortly after that scene he was playing with the remote in the room and he inadvertently turned on the Hotel’s in-room video service.  Well, lo and behold if they didn’t have the pilot episode of Lone Star available for FREE!  Needless to say, it was a professional imperative that I watch it so I could let all the good folks out there know ahead of time if it’s worth their time.  So let the games begin.

Dallas, Part Deux?

First, let me preface this by saying that when I first heard about Lone Star while preparing the forthcoming Fall Preview (coming soon), let’s just say that I was beyond skeptical.  The descriptions I saw on various entertainment sites were bland and really made it sound like to was a 2010 version of Dallas using key-phrases such as “Texas,” “oil” and “soap opera.”  I can’t imagine at all why someone would come to the conclusion that this show is Dallas: The Next Generation.  Speaking of which:

(^^^You’re welcome, by the way.)

After watching the pilot, though,  I can say that I was not only pleasantly surprised, but also a little annoyed at the marketing for this show amongst the various media outlets and even by FOX itself.  Yes, it’s in Texas, yes it revolves around a family oil company and yes it’s definitely a soap, but there is so much more to this show than this, and unfortunately, it may be its downfall.

I want to apologize for the incredibly long synopsis from the Official Lone Star Page but there really was no way to avoid it.  I tried to figure out how I could pare it down and realized that the show has so much going on it that I really couldn’t.  Sorry… blame FOX.


As complicated as that synopsis is, it needs to be corrected.  As noted, Bob is a con-man living two separate lives, with two different women.  But which one is the real Bob?  Well, the answer is both and neither because Bob also has two other alter-egos as well: the man he is when he’s with his father and is actually “himself” and the man he is when he’s actually trying to combine the two lives.  The fact is that Bob is struggling to find out what his true identity is, even in the pilot and it’s obvious that this will be a main theme throughout the series.  Do you see what I mean about this show being complicated?  And that’s just our protagonist.

What I like about this story is Bob, himself.  I’m not sure if I’m into the identity struggle and I can definitely do without the “con-man-with-a-heart-of-gold” persona which seems to be contrived exclusively because the writers aren’t brave enough to have a protagonist be a true anti-hero or a villain.  This is a very weak decision on the writers part in my opinion (well, it may have been a producer’s decision) because it tells me that they don’t have enough faith in the character or the actor, and I don’t understand why.

I like stories about con-men and so does everyone, whether they admit it or not.  Con-men are fun.  They’re clever and they have a swagger and a bravado they keeps audiences coming back.  They’re like spies who are crooks.  If I want to see a transformation from a swine to a knight, I sure as heck don’t want to see it in the pilot.  If the producers need advice on how to develop the growth of a con-man, I would simply refer them to this guy:

From what I’ve seen so far, the producers are unnecessarily playing it safe with Bob.  The character is well-written enough and James Wolk is talented enough to pull-off the “villain-who-we-hate-to-love” without really breaking much of a sweat.  Also, if anyone thinks that writing a villain as protagonist doesn’t work I will simply refer you to this guy:

… who shot a fellow cop in the face during the pilot episode of The Shield and that wasn’t even the worst of his misdeeds over the next six seasons and then there’s of course, this guy:

.. and we all know what he does for the sake of fun and sadism.

The point is that the right actor playing the right character can pull off the villain-protagonist and it’s often quite refreshing when they do, and in this case, ours doesn’t even kill anyone.

The other problem with this “heart-of-gold” scenario as that it doesn’t make any sense.  In the opening scene of the pilot we are immediately made aware that Bob’s father, John (played brilliantly by David Keith) has been a con-man his whole life and has been teaching Bob how to do it since he was at least 10 years-old, if not younger.  That being said, all Bob has ever known is “The Con” and all of a sudden, when he’s on the verge of the biggest score of his life he suddenly finds religion and wants to not only play it straight with his father-in-law’s oil company but also wants to find a way to get all of those people in Midland their money back that he took from them in a Ponzi Scheme?  Sure.  It’s very hard to swallow to say the least.

The Playas

The biggest complaint I have about Lone Star is that the plot outside of Bob’s con is very contrived and very clichéd and to be quite honest, so are some of the characters and a lot of it is lazy and does hearken back to Dallas.  You’ve got your surly patriarch Jock Ewing-type, Clint Thatcher (even the names are clichéd, for God’s sake) played by Jon Voight (who you can never go wrong with) and Trammell Thatcher (Mark Delkin) the ambitious, scheming son who’s mad that Dad gave the outsider (Bob) the task of turning the family business around and is looking to undermine the new guy and finally,  Drew Thatcher (Bryce Johnson), the under-achieving younger brother that no one takes seriously except for the outsider (Bob) and who is desperately seeking approval from both his father and his older, more accomplished brother.  Any of this sound familiar?  Of course it does because we’ve seen this clichéd family trifecta in 100’s of other films and TV shows over the last 50 years.

Still, although you’re tempted to roll your eyes, the performances carry what is really a simplistic, although compelling subplot.  Speaking of performances, thank God for David Keith and Jon Voight.  If James Wolk is the engine of this ship, then Keith and Voight are the anchors.  Keith’s character is brilliantly written and David Keith was born to play him and yes, I know I criticized the Clint Thatcher character, but Jon Voight saves the character from falling off into the abyss.  Honestly, without these two pros in this show it would be an absolute mess, despite the performance of James Wolk.

Now, you’re probably wondering why I didn’t mention Bob’s two love interests, Cat Thatcher (Adrianne Palicki) and Lindsay Holloway (Eloise Mumford) as they are obviously integral parts of this saga.  The reason is simple (and unfortunate): they aren’t really worth mentioning.  I’m not sure if it’s the characters or the actors or a combination of both but whatever it is, neither one of them comes off as very interesting or sympathetic.  I’m inclined to believe that it’s the writing because what it seems like is going on here is that the writers spent an awful lot of time concocting this very complicated story and two really complicated characters in the father and son team of John and Bob, but they simply ignored any kind of real development for the rest of the supporting characters in the hopes that the casting would be strong enough to, shall we say, make chicken salad out of chicken spit.  This is effective for the other male characters, but it is not effective with the two female leads.

Final Thoughts

Despite its weaknesses, the pilot of Lone Star is enjoyable and I would recommend it.  The main story, though complex, is very compelling, the protagonist and his father are incredibly well-written despite the other characters being rather clichéd and simplistic, and the performances by the supporting cast is excellent for the most part.  I do expect that the writers will see how weak the female leads are and will improve the way they are written in the future.

My three major concerns for this show are issues are as follows:

The first is the time slot and the network.  This show is the replacement for 24 which just ended after 8 seasons.  This is the last show in the world I would have ever expected to replace 24.  If there was a show that I would have thought would have gone in the Monday night at 9:00 p.m. slot on FOX,  it would have been either Human Target or Fringe.  Both are excellent action shows that could easily carry 24’s torch in that slot and to be completely honest, I think this show would be better suited for CBS or ABC.  They would seem to have the demographic for it more than FOX.

My second concern is the complexity of this story.  I’m sorry, but today’s audiences have pretty short attention-spans and I’m afraid this show may be a little too cerebral for this generation of TV viewers.  It’s not a knock on today’s audiences, it’s just a fact.  Complex dramas have been on the decline in popularity for the last several years  because audiences simply have too much going on with their 300 channels of cable and of course the Internet.  A show like this takes dedication and there aren’t that many people willing to dedicate to a serial storyline with a continuous arc anymore.  I’m frankly amazed that Lost lasted six seasons and I’m not surprised at all that FlashForward only lasted one (as much as I loved that show).

Finally, the real question I have is, “How long can this show last?”  Really, I mean, the show centers around this one con they are running.  I’m sorry but I don’t want to see this one con play out for seven seasons and by the same token, if the con plays itself out by the end of the first season, what happens next season… yet, another con?  How long can you keep that up? In this regard the show reminds me of Prison Break where we all said at the end of season one, “Well, they’re out.  Now what?” and of course the answer for the three seasons that followed was the most convoluted and bizarre twists in a plotline in television history.  Now, I liked all 4 seasons of Prison Break, but that was getting nuts at the end and I was glad when they finally put the show out if its misery and I don’t want to see that again with another series… especially one on FOX.

So, I’m going to give this show 6 weeks without any expectation of it surviving the Thanksgiving season cuts.  This way I won’t be disappointed if another good show is cancelled which unfortunately, as good as this show is, I do expect to happen.

Watch full episodes of Lone Star, here.