The best thing about Smash is Megan Hilty. I saw her as Glinda at the Fox and as the Dolly Parton character on Broadway in 9 to 5. She is awesome. But, more about that later. A little background first. Smash tells the story of many different characters who come together to produce a Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe. The cast of characters we follow include the writing team , the director, the producer, an ensemble actress ready to step into the spotlight and an ingenue looking for any kind of break.
Like I said, the best part is Megan who plays Ivy Linn who is the seasoned Broadway chorus girl with a gorgeous voice. A professional who can give you made-to-order belt levels on the song you are asking her to sing. A non-whining career girl who just wants to advance into a lead role. She is an obvious choice to play Marilyn Monroe in the fictional musical, “Marilyn!” (I may have added the exclamation point.)
The problem is that it’s hard to see Katherine McPhee as any real competition for the role of Marilyn with Megan Hilty on the screen.
I’m not saying that Katherine McPhee doesn’t sing beautifully. She does. The best moment of the pilot was her rendition of Christina Aguilera’s ‘Beautiful.’ I think that the issue is that the show made this a musical about Marilyn Monroe and then tried to convince us that Katherine McPhee would be a contender against Megan Hilty.
I can see where they are setting up political and sexual conflicts as motivations to maybe push Katherine McPhee’s Karen into the lead. The director, Derek, played by Pirates of the Carribean star Jack Davenport (He played Norrington, FYI), already has professional and personal conflict with one of the writers as well a skeevy interest in Karen.
Other than that, I found the show somewhat blah. To be honest, this felt like a first act. I didn’t care that much about Debra Messing’s character, Julia, the other half of the writing duo. I mean, she was fine but her husband and their pending adoption is setting up some worn out conflicts about work and family that seems boring to me. The same goes with Karen’s home life. Her devoted boyfriend is SO gonna get jilted when she eventually sleeps with her director. You can see it a mile away. They even went so far as to have him in glowing lights as her imagined audience when she auditions. Then of course, his inspirational face dissolves into the director’s face. Umm…a little obvious.
There are some characters where I am waiting to see how things pan out with them, but I have high hopes for them so far. I mean, how could you NOT love Anjelica Houston? And I actually liked the naive assisstant who sent his momma the video of the first draft of their song. And then it went viral. And then he got fired. But, rehired after professing his love for musical theatre. The bottom line is that the commercials and the hype about this show got to me. So, while last night was a mixed bag, I am convinced to hang on for another week or so to give this time to capture my attention.
But, I will say that after watching Smash and DVRing Castle, I will do it the other way around next week. Because last night’s Castle rocked, Boy-o!
OK. I was all set to write about Modern Family, but two things happened. One, it wasn’t new last night. It was a good repeat though, because Cam’s delight at finding himself in an inadvertent Stanley Kowalski moment was precious a second time. The second thing, though, was the teaser pilot, or series preview, for Keifer Sutherland’s new series on Fox, Touch.
Touch tells the story of an autistic child, Jake, whose mother died in 9/11. Keifer Sutherland is the father whose career as a journalist took a nosedive after 9/11 and who has had a seemingly endless string of odd jobs in the intervening ten years. Jake’s autism is severe enough that he never speaks and will not allow anyone to touch him at all.
The story begins when Jake starts to exhibit strange behaviors, which attract the attention of a social worker who is loathe to believe Jake’s father, that the behavior is expressed in patterns and is Jake’s attempt to communicate with the world. Of course, subsequent events convince the social worker, Clea, and Clea and Jake’s father, Martin, join forces to unravel the mystery with an impending deadline looming.
There are lots of pros to this show. First and foremost, Keifer is back!!! As my sister said, “I like him so I am already inclined to like this show.” I agree. I miss 24 (in its heyday before it got ridiculous trying to one-up itself). And this show gives Keifer lots of opportunities to rush around against a deadline, but more freedom than the 24 hour timeframe gave him to slow down and reflect and have emotive scenes. Hell, maybe this show will let him do mundane things like shower, eat, and watch TV… and (I’m guessing) there will be far less opportunity for him to torture people. And practically no need for him to walk around with a head in a bag.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw (and no, I don’t know how to pronounce it) plays the social worker, Clea, and does a good job of being a convincing social worker, but not so stuck in her mindset that she stubbornly refuses to accept that something unusual and amazing is going on with Jake’s character. David Mazouz’s does a great job at playing autistic. You feel his isolation and are as desperate as his father is to grasp the meaning. It was a satisfying moment when he is finally able to touch his father and give him a hug.
Another good part of the show is seeing how the disparate elements and different, seemingly unrelated characters will finally connect. From the father who lost his daughter, to the karaoke singer in Ireland, to the teenager in Baghdad who needs to buy his mom an oven, we know these stories will eventually intersect in some way, but seeing how they will come together is interesting enough to keep me watching.
And last but not least, Danny Glover! He was great as Keifer’s sounding board and entree to the autistic mind and the potentialities that it can grasp that we regular folks cannot. I loved his line explaining why Jake won’t speak. To paraphrase, it is that Jake sees the order in the chaos and it is such a thing of beauty that to see the world that way makes speech superfluous and unnecessary.
I really have no cons, except to wonder how they will sustain this premise over the long run. Just like my apprehension for the show Once when I realized the Lost folks were behind it, I have concerns for this, as Tim Kring is the creator. And I still find it hard to get over how he threw the promising start of Heroes right out the window. Still, I was surprised at how many elements and stories the episode could hold while still remaining comprehensible. Anyway, I have already set my DVR and welcome Keifer back to my Monday nights. I can’t wait to see the rest!
You know, people made fun of me for needing two DVRs. They said, “Mai, you watch too much television.” Well, that may be true, but it’s nights like these that are the reason. I mean, of course I am watching The Big Bang Theory – it’s an Amy and Sheldon-centric ep and those are my favorites! Additionally, 30 Rock premiers tonight, THANK GOD. I mean, totes happy for Tina Fey and her baby, Alec Baldwin is always better with other people’s words coming out of his mouth, yadda, yadda, yadda, but I needed me some Donaghy with a Lemon twist, know what I mean? I am also ready for Parks and Rec and the Office. It’s the only hour in the week I get to see both my TV boyfriends: Ben Wyatt and Jim Halpert.
So, if this were a regular Thursday, I would already be psyched and my DVR would runneth over with NBC and CBS goodies. BUT, tonight there is another premier I have really been looking forward to. Last season, Bones did a backdoor pilot of a spinoff based on The Locator series of novels by Richard Greener. I liked the pilot, and the character of Walter (who they call “The Finder” rather than “The Locator.”) He is a brain damamged war veteran who has the ability to find anything that is lost. Geoff Stulz’s Walter has a twitchy energy that pushes things forward and he is an interesting character I want to get to know. I also really liked the sidekicks, played by Michael Clarke Duncan and Saffron Burrows.
I even read both the Locator books after seeing the backdoor pilot episode. You know, to sustain me until tonight. They are really entertaining and I recommend them. They kept the core concept the same, the guy with the Finding mojo…but the changes they made from the book to the show were good ones. Walter is younger and more paranoid in the show and it makes for interesting onscreen dynamics. In the books Walter was a Vietnam vet; in this he is a Gulf War Vet – also to make him younger. The sidekicks are more involved in the main plot, and exist as real parts of Walter’s life, with knowledge and insight into his condition, rather than a viewer’s gallery who question Walter and speculate about him, along with the reader.
I don’t know how the show will work out in the longer run. They have already replaced Saffron Burrows’ character with two other female leads. That kind of bums me out, because I like what she did with the character of Ike. Over the top accent and malapropisms notwithstanding.
Anyway, I thank heaven that I do have two DVRs so I won’t miss any of the action. Plus one of them is right in front of my treadmill, so….New Year’s Resolution, right? There’s no doubt watching a good show keeps me running longer.
Happy Thursday to you, fellow viewers.
P.S. This second picture has nothing to do with TV. It’s my new puppy Phoebe. She is watching PBS right now, though. In case y’all wanted to know.
I am hardly the first person to rave about the PBS Masterpiece Classic, Downton Abbey. I am sure your Facebook newsfeeds have, like mine, been peppered with mentions of this English pre-World War I period drama. I never paid it much attention, except when they kept winning stuff at the Emmy’s last year. But even then I kept thinking, “Don’t they mean Downtown Abbey? Is this some, like British affectation thing?”
I mean, on the surface, it totally has all the makings of a successful British miniseries. Maggie Smith as aristocratic and acerbic? Check! Highclere Castle with its rolling lawns and splendour? Check! Every single “Hey! That British guy from that other thing?” Check! But, I was a little weary. I mean, they weren’t adapting something reliable or anything. Nothing written by Jane Austen or a Bronte. This was NEW. But, then again, it was by the same writer who penned Gosford Park and I love that movie. Gosford Park had everything. Maggie Smith as aristocratic and acerbic? Check! Splendid English country home? You see where I am going with this…
So, I finally caved in and watched Series One on Netflix. And now I am totally addicted. I can’t even tell you what’s so compelling about this series. We have all seen the repressed British upper class and the servants’ struggles before. Upstairs Downstairs indeed. At the end of the day it’s just a bunch of rich people and their servants. It’s not especially action-filled or salacious. The interactions between the characters is mostly all very proper. But, it’s the undercurrent, or what is happening beneath the surface that is important. That’s where the story really lies. It’s what you as the viewer sees that the characters do not that makes the unfolding narrative so compelling.
Set against the backdrop off the build-up to World War I, we understand that society is changing in very real ways for the inhabitants of Downton Abbey, both upstairs and downstairs residents. It’s where the traditions of the past come up against the changing tide of the times. Series Two puts the characters into the action of World War I. It began airing last night on PBS. Check it out and share your thoughts with me. Is it as addictive for you? Why do you think it’s such a sensation on both sides of the pond?
Last week I posted about the one new night of TV that I was gonna get. And Parks and Rec did NOT disappoint, though it was more touching than funny. I finally found a man who could challenge my devotion to Jim Halpert in one Mr. Ben Wyatt. But, this week, I am finally going to get what I wanted last week. I was terribly disappointed that How I Met Your Mother was a repeat last week because for the first time in a long time I really don’t know what is going to happen and cannot wait to find out.
Even though the previews for this episode have been teasing the big news, I thought it was prudent to tag the Spoiler Alert, because apparently Robin is pregnant and we don’t know if Kal Penn’s character or Barney is the baby daddy. Both of these possibilities are intriguing and I am curious to see not only how it plays out between the potential parents, but also among the gang in general. So, this is what I plan to watch in REAL TIME tomorrow.
Additionally, 2 Broke Girls is new. While it has fallen off in quality, I think I will still give it a go tomorrow. Finally, even though the competition is over, The Sing Off is back for one night of Christmas Musical Merriment. While I usually eschew Christmas specials lilke this, I will go ahead and Tivo this, as these are actually talented musicians and the quality of music will be good. Fingers crossed that the whole affair will be less cheesy than most specials.
I have had precious little to report this past week as NONE of my favorite shows are new. I was actually caught unawares by this. I sat down all ready for a (finally) juicy How I Met Your Mother in the wake of last week’s Thanksgiving cliffhanger, but alas! It was a repeat. EVERYTHING this week has been a repeat except for the awesome Sing Off finale.
Yesterday, though, my sister informed me that my favorite of favorites, Parks and Recreation, was not only NEW this week, but … and now hold on to your hats, people… actually stars the lovely and talented Tina Fey! What? I thought to myself that this was my reward for suffering through a boring TV week. The best SNL gal pals ever! The Baby Mama team! Back in the hiz-ouse! I have desperately been missing Tina Fey since NBC delayed the start of 30 Rock so Tina could once again be a real Baby Mama. But, I have Googled and Googled and can find no evidence of this.
You know what? I actually don’t care, because what I did learn was that Parks and Rec is NEW tomorrow anyway. “The Trial of Leslie Knope” is what I will be watching and since I was MORE than pleased with the turn of events in the last episode when Ben and Leslie threw caution, their jobs and her campaign to the wind and declared that they would ‘out’ their relationship to their boss, Chris. I have been dying to know what what lies in store for those two lovebirds! I hope it will be as funny as it is touching, and needless to say, THIS is what I will be watching Thursday night.
Not only that, but the whole NBC lineup is new this week, making it a true entertainment oasis in a vast desert of TV repeats. Stay on for the brand new Community (Big Bang is a repeat, so let’s give the Community gang a shot?) and a new Office that promises Robert California’s wife. Can’t wait to see those!
On a final note: it would have been SUPER great if the networks would have let Thanksgiving have it’s due, rather than shoving Christmas down our throats early and instead used this totally appropriate week of nothing TV to let go with Rudolph, Charlie Brown, George Bailey, Buddy the Elf and the Grinch with wild abandon. Sigh! Why isn’t it ME that runs things?
I’m going to be honest, there really isn’t much this week. Television on Thanksgiving week is always a mix of holiday-themed special episodes and football, with the occasional rerun that airs just to throw you off and make you have to talk to your relatives. And i usually have a hard time getting anyone to change the channel from football.
But, last year I made a special DVD set for myself and that is my favorite thing to watch at this time of year. I used my Friends Box Set and Will and Grace Box Set and my Frasier Box set to make my Holiday Compilation discs – special collections of all the Thanksgiving and Christmas-themed episodes of all those shows.
It’s wonderful because you get in the holiday spirit while reliving these classic moments:
Joey gets his head stuck in the turkey:
Will, Grace, Karen and Jack spend Christmas at the Plaza:
Frasier’s dad accidentally eats a pot brownie:
The Big Bang Theory where Penny gifts Sheldon with Leonard Nimoy’s DNA, prompting him to excessive gratitude:
No doubt everyone has their own favorite Holiday special or holiday episode. I say this is the time to watch that. Unless you are actually into football…
I am playing the totally fun game of sitting here waiting in a Jury Assembly Room of the courthouse on Day One ( and hopefully Day Last also) of my jury duty. I like to be a good citizen, but these folks need to hurry up and let me decide something or let me go home! Instead, I have exhausted both Facebook and Pinterest and am halfway through the latest Nikki Heat book by Richard Castle. And that put in mind to anticipate tonight television agenda…
Many hours later…
It’s no longer Day One. See, I suffered through Day Two and sweated Day Three at work while fearing a possible Day Four. Thankfully, I got a reprieve and so, today, I am going to tell my loyal readers (all three of you), what to Watch ahead of time, so you can truly Watch With Mai (disclaimer: this statement does not account for DVRs and also time zones. Also, you can’t come to my house. My mom doesn’t let me have visitors on a school night.)
Parks and Recreation: (8:30, NBC) Leslie gets the gang to help her put on a Model U.N.
I have no idea how this would fall under the purview of the Parks Department of Pawnee. It seems more like a Dept. of Education thing. Model U.N.s don’t take place in parks and it’s only a small subset of kids (usually ones hanging by their underpants from flagpoles) who consider Model U.N.s ‘recreation.’ But, I am psyched nonetheless. Anything with committees, meetings, Rules of Order and Leslie Knope mentoring to the youth of Pawnee is gold. I find myself curious to see how April and Andy mess it up (or be idiot-savant style brilliant regarding world issues) and Ron Swanson at a model U.N? Just those words in the same sentence are funny.
The Big Bang Theory: (8:00, CBS) Leonard and Penny spend time alone together.
It’s a vague description, but there are lots of implications no matter which side of the Penny-Leonard relationship you are on. I like them together, though I am not a ‘shipper, in the sense that I think the show isn’t good without that situation. I hope that whatever they do it’s funny and not a perfunctory plot point they had to address once Leonard (presumably) broke up with Priya after she cheated on him. I most like Sheldon and Penny scenes, so I always hope for those, too. In any case, this show is a must watch in-real-time for me.
Community: (8:00, NBC – for me on DVR): The gang helps Annie move in with Troy and Abed
Community has been hit and miss lately. Too many gimmicky episodes like the Troy and Abed party which split into multiverses, and Brita’s psych evaluations were just so-so for me. I like the idea of this episode though, and the possibilities that are likely to come from Annie living with the boys. Remember when she was highschool crushing HARD on Troy? I like the idea of reviving that, even if only to give Jeff Winger a run for his money…
The Office: (9:00, NBC): Pam wants Jim to admit that he thinks her work replacement is pretty.
This description sounds kind of silly, but I am eager to have Jim and Pam do something front and center this season. Also, I’m a girl, so I love how Jim usually always manages to save the day, Pam-wise and be super sweet and romantic. Watching him mess this up will be fun, too. Especially since Dwight is going to be in on the action.
So, that’s my plan for tonight, y’all. After Jeopardy, that is….
Watch With Me, won’t you? Happy viewing!
I have been bagging on How I met Your Mother pretty hard lately, but tonight’s episode finally brought back the Good Stuff! Let me be clear, I bashed HIMYM about their rehashing of various plot lines, episodes and devices. But, tonight’s Disaster Averted managed to rehash in all the right ways, without feeling overdone. It brought back old favorites in a good way and left very little to feel irritated by.
1. Ted and his poor choices in boot-wear. Ted used to insist he could pull off those awful red cowboy boots. By comparison his pink rain boots were pretty funny, as was his reasoning. Pink boots are easier to see from rescue helicopters. Umm, ok. I will let it slide because it was a good sight gag.
2. The Ducky Tie Resolution! I KNEW there would come a time when Barney tried to weasel his way out of the Ducky Tie bet. I loved the superhero story he wove regarding why he had to get rid of the tie (saving a child from falling off a building, naturally) even if I did see the tie gag coming from a mile away. The best part of the gag, though, was….
3. Return of the Slap Bet! I know that we all felt as Marshall did, a little anxious about the fact that we were down to but one slap. Even though I was less than pleased by the last Slap Bet episode where he gives away a slap to either Robin or Ted on Thanksgiving, this Slap Bet storyline had lots going for it, including watching Marshall’s increasing desire to slap the crap out of Barney and Barney’s attempts to needle him into doing it so that he would be out of slaps and have to renegotiate for more slaps. The resolution was good, too, with the return of Lily acting as Slap Bet Commissioner. Additionally, the Slap Bet story brought us…
4. A good way to use Kal Penn’s character. I mean for MOST of the episode, he was there only to ask the questions that kept the ‘A’ Plot, the Hurricane Irene’ story moving forward. But his spot on analysis that Barney’s made up story was really about him not wanting to meet Nora’s parents in the Ducky tie was a nice way to add pressure to the Marshall / Barney standoff and ratchet up the final negotiations.
I also really liked the Hurricane Irene storyline. HIMYM has done a winter storm story before (and for the record, it is one of my favorite HIMYM eps, culminating in Auld Lang Syne played in an airport by a marching band) but this was different. The pace and writing of this episode kept it moving along. Ted being a nerd about weather preparedness was gold owing to all the riffs on the Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared.” Even the inevitable Canada joke was pretty good (see blog title). Marshall’s Edgar Allen Poe was hilarious combined with the imaginary bear maulings. We even glossed over the parts that easily could have been really annoying, like Ted picking up a random chick in the hall and Robin needing attention from her father.
Anyway, if you TIVO’d it, it’s worth a watch! Now, I am just gonna type my favorite quotes.
Rescued kid: How can I thank you, mister?
Barney: Stay in school!
Robin: Prepared to spend lunch in his locker?
Marshall: Prepared to die a virgin?
Barney: Prepared to paint his sister’s nails?
Robin: This storm is nothin’! I’m from Vancouver. You know what they call this in the Couv? Barbeque weather.
Marshall: The Grim reaper beckons. I feel his icy grip ’round my throat. The breath of his hounds at me heels the unrelenting rat-tat-tat of his scythe on my chamber door. And you? With your blythe request you only hasten his inevitable triumph. Is that what you desire? Is that what you desire, Lily?
Lily: I just wanted you to get us some bagels.
Marshall: Nobody wakes up and says, ‘Today I’m going to star in a Youtube video.
Lily: You’ve said that at least a dozen times!
Barney: Are you gonna seize this slapportunity or are you going to let it slap through your fingers?
Barney: Le joux commence.
Marshall: Je m’appelle Marshall.
Ted: This is Maya. I just met her out in the hall. We have a lot in common, such as our mutual love of country music, NASCAR and Jeff Foxworthy, just go with it.
Ted: Therapisted! Shrinked? Shrunk? We’ll figure it out….
Barney (indicating Lily and Marshall’s baby): Ew! You made that in my bathroom?
Barney: I think I need to go home and reevaluate how I make life decisions.
So, yesterday we reviewed ABC’s ‘Once Upon A Time.’ Today we are talking about the other folklore-inspired offering this season, NBC’s ‘Grimm.” Right off the bat, this struck me as a less than traditional take on the storybook elements it employs. Our protagonist, Nick, is a small town cop who learns that his family has a mystery about it. They are Grimms, or warriors of a kind who fight against ‘The Big Bad Wolves,’ in this case, literally. His aunt comes to town and is attacked by a demony, wolfy creature. Nick has to shoot it and it turns back into a human before the cops (the other cops) arrive.
Nick learns through his aunt that there are such monsters as exist in fairytales and that they aren’t merely stories. She has been fighting them a long time and she has come to tell Nick, in part because his gift has begun to manifest. He has begin to see behind the human masks these creatures wear. The parallel plot involes various missing Little Red Riding Hoods and another Big Bad Wolf who is responsible for their abductions. Nick uses his gift and a sidekick he picks up along the way to solve the case.
Arguably the best part of the show is Silas Weir Richardson (who I mostly know as creepy Donny Jones from ‘My Name is Earl’ and Haywire from ‘Prison Break’), who plays a reformed Big Bad Wolf who gets roped into helping Nock track down the missing Little Red Riding Hood. A very bizarre, left-of-center character that provides some irreverant comic relief.
The show was put together really well and felt stylistically like ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ which makes sense since it is produced by some Buffy alums. With ‘Grimm’ they have left themselves a loose mission statement and consequently any number of fairytale beasties can be vanquished, as well as human foes, either on their own or in league with such creatures. Think EvilAngel, the Mayor, Faith (bad Grimm anyone? could be totally Five by Five). This series is’t set in highschool so it might lack that Whedonesque lingo and insouciance, but come on! We have Nick the newbie and the sufficiently bad-ass, yet tragically wounded and / or dying aunt to serve as a mentor / Watcher or whatever the Grimm equivalent would be.
All in all it may seem that ‘Grimm” has the weaker premise, but, in contrast to ‘Once Upon A Time,’ I think the broadness of this premise and the open-ended nature of what will become the protagonist’s mission leaves a lot more open to interpretation than the finite curse-breaking mission that needs to happen in ‘Once.’ On ‘Once’ I feel like the curse either needs to be broken or we delay through various plot devices the resolution of that goal. That could be sustainable for a while, but we could easily be all yelling at our screens for them to, “get on with it already!” just like Ted and the Mother. Additionally, while ‘Once’ exists in a pristine ABC Disney bubble, ‘Grimm’ will be much more in the real world. While ‘Once’ literally states that the clock has stopped, that time has stood still until the conflict with the Evil Queen can be resolved. The time stopping-bubble-fantasy land device is analogous to the island in ‘Lost;’ it keeps everyone cut off and keeps the curse front and center. ‘Grimm,’ on the other hand tries, to the extent that a fantasy series can do, to take on the real world as it is, adding an additional flavor to the story.
In the final analysis, I will continue to keep my eye on both for the forseeable future. These two are so far apart stylistically and in tone that it does not at all seem like you are watching two of the same kind of show.