As a self-proclaimed television aficionado, you’d think I’d be more upset about the writers strike. Let’s face it, aside from the So You Think You Can Dance fetish, I’m pretty much only interested in scripted television. I should be crying my eyes out. But while I’m following the strike coverage religiously (Deadline Hollywood Daily, dudes), I’m perfectly content to miss out on the 2008 season. Doesn’t bother me at all. So what’s going on here?
1. A really weak pilot season. None of the year’s new shows were particularly thrilling. The only ones I still watch regularly are Dirty Sexy Money and Pushing Daisies, and I sort of want to love those shows more than I actually do, you know? I loved Mad Men, but it finished its run mid-fall. My parents adore The Big Bang Theory. It’s cute, but I don’t need to watch it every week. They’re more into it, I decided, because they don’t know any super geeks. I do, so watching fictional geeks is considerably less thrilling. So, yeah. Big yawn to the new shows. And I have extremely low expectations for the ones yet to air (The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Cashmere Mafia, whatever).
2. No exciting cliffhangers. As for the other shows I watch, I’m happy to press the pause button on their current plotlines. In previous years, I was into heavily serialized shows like Veronica Mars, Alias and Lost. I would’ve been irate if the networks put Logan in jail or left Vaughn caught in the throes of some Rambaldi device and then left me hanging for months on end. But this year, I don’t really have a must-see heart-pounding drama. I love Friday Night Lights, but c’mon, it’s just football. Heroes is the only show around with life-or-death stakes, and I hate to point this out to you, but Heroes is mediocre. It’s exciting occasionally, and some of the people are pretty, but it’s never awesome. So, yeah, Heroes going off the air for months? I’ll survive.
As for the softer dramas — Grey’s Anatomy, Ugly Betty — no big cliffhangers there either. Sure, McDreamy is flirting with the new nurse, but we the viewers know a stupid plot twist when we see one. It’s not like Meredith has her hand stuck in Bomb Guy’s chest. Now there’s a cliffhanger! Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever be as emotionally involved with Grey’s Anatomy again, even if they taped Christina to the front of a speeding train or something. You can’t top Bomb Guy. It’s fourth season, the show’s peaked. It’s all downhill from here.
There’s nothing crazy going on with the half-hour comedy romantic subplots, either — and that’s the Catch-22 with comedies. They’re more accessible to viewers, but people won’t skip happy hour to go home and watch except in two situations: the show’s attained cult social status, or some folks on the show are about to make out. Romantic tension is key. For example, 30 Rock is my favorite show. I’m obsessed. But I’m willing to DVR it. Last season, DVR was unacceptable; I had to watch in real time — because Floyd and Liz were going to hook up. Same thing with Jim and Pam on The Office: they’re together now, so we can all take a deep breath and relax. I can even relax all the way to 2009. As long as I’m assured these shows will come back eventually, I’m happy.
3. College basketball. I mostly watch ACC games during the regular, and this means I’m woefully underinformed when March Madness rolls around. When it comes to the Big East, I’ll end up picking teams with stupid mascot names for my bracket, crap like that. Because normally I’m watching too much TV already to have time for SportsCenter — but this year, there won’t be any good TV to get in the way! It’s all college hoops all the time, baby! (Apologies for channeling Dickie V.)
4. The writers are right.
5. The Wire. I’ve never seen it! I’m going to rent it! I’m pretty excited about it!
I watched the return of the late shows last night — loved that Conan seemed to play by the rules; while clearly there was planning about what went on the air, it didn’t seem as “written” as the Leno material did. And Dave was fantastic, continuing to publicize the writers strike while keeping the material hilarious. Hey, I guess that’s what professional writers are good for!
Obviously, I’ve taken a little break from posting. And by “little,” I mean “over three months.” Don’t hate, I’ve been busy. But here’s a quick rundown on where I’m at these days:
Television: Man, this WGA strike sucks, huh? Just give the writers their internet residuals and let’s be done with it. Still in love with Friday Night Lights, 30 Rock, House, and The Office. And South Park! Honorable mentions to How I Met Your Mother and Pushing Daisies. Scrubs has been unusually weak, but I still won’t miss an episode. Grey’s Anatomy and Ugly Betty are fine, I guess. Favorite new show that I actually don’t watch much: Dirty Sexy Money. Most of the new shows were pretty zzzzzzz, right? Chuck‘s okay but despite Zachary Levi and Captain Awesome, I don’t watch that very often either. Sad that sexy Michael Vartan’s show was cancelled, and also sad that Rob Thomas couldn’t turn it around.
Movies: Loved Atonement, No Country for Old Men and Michael Clayton. Really liked Enchanted, Gone Baby Gone, and American Gangster. Thought Casey Affleck was awesome in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, but the rest was totally overrated and snooze-inducing.
And what else? Celebrity gossip has been totally boring lately. I’m sick of Britney (though I’m down with Gimme More) and I need a break from Lindsay. I kind of want to make out with Shia LaBoeuf, which is, frankly, a surprising turn of events.
So, that’s all for now, but I’ll get back into the swing of things in January. Hopefully with something interesting to say! But no promises.
You can’t vote for the Emmys, but you can vote for E! Online’s Tater Tops awards here. Refreshingly, they include shows overlooked by the Academy of We Make Television But We Don’t Bother Watching It.
Here’s a sampling of my votes:
Moment That Made Me Want to Throw Out My TV: Meredith and Derek fizzle out in the finale, Grey’s Anatomy
Best Fight: Roy versus Dwight’s pepper spray, The Office
Best Bitch: Vanessa Williams as Wilhelmina Slater, Ugly Betty
Best Kiss: Matt & Julie, “Black Eyes and Broken Hearts,” Friday Night Lights
Best Show of Skin: Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) shirtless, Veronica Mars
Best Chemistry: Kyle Chandler & Connie Britton, Friday Night Lights
Show I’ll Miss the Most: Veronica Mars
Best Reality Show: The Amazing Race
Best Comedy: 30 Rock
Best Drama Ensemble: Battlestar Galactica
According to Gold Derby, Friday Night Lights is still in Emmy contention, but Battlestar Galactica got ignored again. Also, 30 Rock got some serious love from the judges. This is great news; now that Kevin Reilly has jumped from NBC to Fox, Friday Night Lights is in danger, and could use some Emmy buzz.
Here’s the lowdown on NBC’s new and returning series:
Heroes: Staying at Mondays at 9 pm after Deal or No Deal. I don’t really get what’s going on here, but NBC is doing the regular season of Heroes, plus a spinoff called Heroes: Origins, where a new character will be introduced each week, and then viewers can vote online to pick which one will join the regular cast next season. This sounds … needlessly complex.
The Office: It’s a good thing this show is awesome, because it’s going to be on all the time — 20 regular episodes and 5 one-hour episodes. It’s staying at Thursday at 9 pm, so sucks for you, Grey’s Anatomy fans.
My Name Is Earl: 25 episode renewal. I love this new “we’re not going to be restricted by the 22-episode paradigm” attitude, but sheesh. Will stay at Thursdays at 8 pm.
30 Rock: A full renewal, hurray! It’s moving up to Thursdays at 8:30 pm, another vote of confidence.
Scrubs: Renewed, but only for 18 episodes. Amazingly, it will actually air in the fall, staying at Thursdays at 9:30 pm.
Friday Night Lights: Unfortunately, Friday Night Lights will now be airing on Fridays at 10 pm, after a block of game shows and Las Vegas. That’s usually when I’m out with a beer in my hand, but luckily I’ve got a DVR. This is kind of a depressing move, at least it’s a renewal, and perhaps it will take some of the ratings pressure off.
Notice how I didn’t mention Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip or Crossing Jordan? That’s cause they’re canceled.
Journeyman: Stars Kevin McKidd (Vorenus!) as a newspaper reporter who travels through time and changes lives. Somewhere in time, he bumps into an old girlfriend, but he’s already married, awkward! Does he get tomorrow’s newspaper on his doorstep every morning like Early Edition? We’ll have to wait and see. Airing Mondays at 10 pm, so maybe it’ll catch some of the Heroes crowd.
Chuck: A “comedic spy thriller” about a geek who gets secrets embedded in his brain and is persuaded to become a government agent. The premise sounds funny, but that lame Sarah Lancaster is in it, so I’m marking this one down as suspect. Tuesdays at 9 pm after The Biggest Loser.
Bionic Woman: From the folks who brought you Battlestar Galactica. These guys are great at “reimagining” series, but … seriously, Bionic Woman? Wednesdays at 9 pm. (Make sure to check out Katee Sackhoff in the trailer here.)
Life: A police detective returns to the force after serving time in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, hopefully with a Life sentence. (Honestly, they couldn’t come up with a better title than Life?) Wednesdays at 10 pm.
Lipstick Jungle: Based on the book, which I did not read. Has Brooke Shields, Kim Raver, and Lindsay Price as a bunch of career-oriented Carrie Bradshaws. Or I guess that makes them Miranda Hobbeses. Sundays at 10 pm.
The IT Crowd: Like The Office but with Joel McHale. Luckily, he has plenty of office experience from doing those Burger King commercials. Not currently on the schedule, so it might get plugged in wherever the first cancellation is, or just fill in on Thursdays for Scrubs.
That’s right, NBC is renewing Friday Night Lights for a full twenty-two episodes. Hurray! Be honest, have you been watching? If not, use these dreary months of reruns to get all caught up. The entire first season is available to watch online for free here. You don’t even have to wait for the DVDs, or shell out money on iTunes. No excuses! (You’ll thank me later.)
As a public service, I dodged Veronica Mars and Grey’s Anatomy spoilers to bring you the following info from Michael Ausiello’s weekly column: Friday Night Lights is probably returning next season. We’ll know for sure on May 14 at the NBC upfronts.
Still hoping for a miracle for Veronica Mars. The CW upfronts are May 17. Rob Thomas gave Kristin at E! Online a preview of the next few episodes, and speculated about a movie if next season falls through. I’d watch that!
You can check Piz out on ABC Thursday, when the Grey’s Anatomy spinoff episode airs. So excited! Tim Daly deserves a hit.
E! Online’s Kristin Veitch reported a few interesting things yesterday. Here’s the rundown:
Max Greenfield (Deputy Leo) and Kyle Secor (Jake Kane) will be back on Veronica Mars, probably for the season finale. Let’s hope it’s not the series finale! (Max is also on Ugly Betty as Wilhemina’s new assistant.)
Speaking of which, Kristen Chenoweth (Glinda!) will be appearing in the season finale of Ugly Betty.
Sara Ramirez might not return to Grey’s Anatomy next season. Sounds like a big ol’ divorce for Callie O’Malley.
Brian Friedman is not planning to appear on So You Think You Can Dance this summer, dangit.
Constance Zimmer (Dana) will reappear on Entourage.
Most importantly, Kristin’s reporting that Friday Night Lights will return next season. Of course, nothing’s official yet, so I’ll wait to hear it from Jeff Zucker.
NBC has ordered six more scripts for Friday Night Lights, according to TV Guide’s Michael Ausiello. All things considered, this is pretty fantastic: it’s a vote of confidence, and it doesn’t cost the network much. The downside — it’s not an actual renewal. But we should know by the May upfronts.
Again, I think the smart thing for NBC to do is at least renew for 13 episodes. That gives the network time to assess whether summer reruns have an impact on the ratings, and leaves room to tie up loose ends.
I’m so excited for tomorrow’s season finale, it’s getting ridiculous.
Maureen Ryan’s fantastic Chicago Tribune blog has a great interview with Jeffrey Reiner, the co-executive producer of Friday Night Lights, that really spotlights what makes this show so special. It takes mundane moments in its characters’ lives and fills them with meaning and dramatic weight. And even when a subplot might sound a little contrived or overdramatic, it never feels that way — it feels organic and realistic instead. The creators go to great lengths to maintain that realism in the writing and shooting process, and it’s really paid off.
But will it get renewed for another season? When Maureen Ryan spoke to NBC’s Kevin Reilly, the answer was somewhere between 55 – 100%. Not very reassuring, particularly since they’ve renewed 30 Rock, the other underperformer. Realistically, I’d like NBC to do a 13-episode pickup, because I really believe repeating the show this summer will pay off come the fall.
We’ve already covered the fall TV season’s major contenders, but here’s a look at some other interesting pilots floating around on The Futon Critic:
The Call: Kal Penn (Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle) and Danny Comden (Pretty Persuasion) star as two wacky paramedics — sounds like Scrubs with more action.
Cashmere Mafia: One of two new Sex and the City clones (the other is Lipstick Jungle with Brooke Shields), this one from Darren Star. Sounds like a bunch of “ambitious” (read: bitchy) women complaining about their problems. It stars Bonnie Somerville (Kitchen Confidential, Mona on Friends), Frances O’Connor (Mansfield Park), and Lucy Liu, but that doesn’t really matter. I’ll only watch if the boys are hot.
Dirty Sexy Money: With this title, you’d think it was a reality show. Instead, it’s a drama from Greg Berlanti, billed as Dallas meets Dynasty — though the description sounds more like Arrested Development meets The Godfather. Peter Krause (Six Feet Under) stars as the family’s Michael Bluth. Donald Sutherland’s the patriarch, also with Billy Baldwin and Samaire Armstrong (The OC). Donald Sutherland seriously annoys me, but I’m willing to overlook it.
Eli Stone: Another Berlanti project. A cutthroat lawyer starts having visions, and he starts thinking he’s a prophet. As if you weren’t already convinced this dude is psycho, he starts working pro bono. Jonny Lee Miller (Aeon Flux, Mansfield Park, former Jolie spouse) stars as your Crazytown lawyer-prophet, also with Natasha Henstridge and Victor Garber. With a cast this good, I’ll at least watch the premiere. Maybe that means I’m crazy.
Football Wives: A remake of the British show Footballer$ Wive$. First alteration: no dollar signs! The Brit version is over-the-top hilarious (example plotline: a devious lady steals a baby then uses fake tanner to make the kid look half-Indian). But will US audiences embrace the outrageousness? ABC’s giving it the old college try, with Bryan Singer directing and a strong cast: Gabrielle Union (Bring It On), Eddie Cibrian (Invasion), Lucy Lawless, Ving Rhames, and James Van Der Beek. That’s right, I said JAMES VAN DER BEEK. I can’t miss Dawson’s triumphant return to the small screen, I just can’t.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith: A remake of the movie. These aren’t always bad — Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Friday Night Lights come to mind. Another strong cast here, with Martin Henderson (The Ring) taking over for Brad Pitt. Also with Jordana Brewster, Julia Ormond, and Bridgette Wilson-Sampras (Billy Madison).
Law Dogs: Once upon a time, he stole my heart as Zack Morris. Now Mark Paul Gosselaar is a public defender, presumably saving the world from injustice and getting in all sorts of delicious romantic entanglements. Also starring Janeane Garofalo, who will presumably be in charge of the Sardonic Remarks department.
Los Duques: Family drama with an all-star cast: Jimmy Smits, Hector Elizondo, Rita Moreno, Nestor Carbonell (Suddenly Susan), and some very pretty guy named Eddie Matos. Also featuring Alona Tal (Meg from Veronica Mars) and Polly Walker (Atia from Rome).
Swingtown: Appears to be about swingers in the 1970s. Gross premise, but it has Grant Show (Melrose Place) and Jack Davenport (Coupling (UK), Pirates of the Caribbean). Jack Davenport’s tall, funny, and has a British accent, so I’ll watch him in anything.
Business Class: Another high concept single-camera comedy for NBC. Mark Valley (Boston Legal) plays a traveling soda salesmen with dubious ethics who’s showing fresh-faced innocent Horatio Sanz the ropes of the biz. That’s right, I said Horatio Sanz. Valley’s character sounds very Thank You For Smoking, while Sanz sounds a little Andy Barker, P.I. Definitely has potential.
Zip: Yet another high concept single camera comedy. This one’s got Rob Huebel, the Inconsiderate Cell Phone Man himself, playing a con artist who believes in the power of positive thinking. This sounds like a funnier version of The Riches minus the gypsies, and Rob Huebel is hilarious, so definitely looking forward to this.
We’ve got a month to go before the May upfronts, but the networks have already presented some pilots to media buyers. Here’s a rundown of some contenders, organized by network:
Action News: Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton, also starring Fred Willard (yay!) and poor dead Billy from Battlestar Galactica. Grammer plays a hot shot news anchor whose career goes down the drain and ends up back at his former local news station with Heaton, his old co-anchor. In a TV first, they will share a tempestuous love-hate relationship. Aw, I kid. This sounds pretty cute.
The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Lena Headey plays Sarah Connor. She is very pretty. Basically, this picks up where Terminator 2: Judgment Day leaves off. John Connor’s played by that Zach kid from Heroes.
The Apostles: About cops or something. Both the cast and the description makes me yawn.
Canterbury’s Law: Julianna Margulies is a rebellious defense attorney. Eh.
The Cure: Oded Fehr (the Egyptian guy from The Mummy who wasn’t the Mummy), Esai Morales and Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon are doctors, but they’re like radical guerilla doctors raging against the machine.
Gossip Girl: I hate it when a CW pilot looks good, because that means it might bump Veronica Mars off the schedule. Anyway, this one features Carrie Bishop (Leighton Meester) from Veronica Mars and other pretty no-names in a fancy Manhattan rich kid school. I love a good rich kid high school drama, and actually, that Meester girl is really talented, so … dammit.
Wild at Heart: Brett Cullen has been everywhere lately (Lost, Tim’s dad on Friday Night Lights, that Beau-Mart guy on Ugly Betty), and now he’s a veterinarian who moves to a game reserve in South Africa with his undoubtedly brooding kids.
Dash 4 Cash: Jonathan Chase (murder suspect Josh from Veronica Mars) and a bunch of nobodies star in a fake racing reality show. Could be a lot of fun.
Aliens in America: Two teenagers, one Muslim, one Whitey, engage in some sort of wacky hijinks.
Reaper: A slacker becomes the devil’s bounty hunter. Seriously.
CBS didn’t meet with buyers, but two possibilities:
I’m in Hell: Stars Jason Biggs (remember him? American Pie, anyone?) as a Wall Street type who dies, then gets sent back to live life as a schlub.
Twilight: Amber Valetta, Rade Serbedzija (Eurotrip and tons of other stuff) and others in a show about a vampire private investigator. So basically, Angel.
The only project mentioned in the article is the Grey’s Anatomy spinoff (tentatively titled “Private Practice,” ew), but I wanted to highlight at least one other project …
Untitled Jon Feldman Project (a.k.a. Bedrooms & Boardrooms): Michael Vartan, Dylan McDermott, Josh Malina and Christopher Titus star. What a fantastic cast! A bunch of male CEOs who gossip Sex and the City-style. Vartan’s the lead, naturally. Dylan’s a “cosmetics CEO who can’t resist sex with his age-defying ex-wife,” just like Dr. Cox from Scrubs. Josh Malina’s a cheater. Titus is totally whipped by his wife (I’m giggling just thinking about this one). If this isn’t on ABC’s fall schedule … well, then it probably sucks, but it can’t suck! It’s got Vartan!
It’s back: E! Online’s annual Save One Show poll, in which you vote for the show you’d most like to see back on the air next season.
Vote! Mine was cast for Veronica Mars, but I’d also suggest showing Friday Night Lights a little love.
NBC’s Kevin Reilly told ad buyers this week that “nothing is guaranteed and the ratings are low, but I can’t help but believe that 30 Rock and Friday Night Lights have the potential to be St. Elsewhere and Cheers.”
I do, too!
Matt Roush from TV Guide praised Friday Night Lights this week more eloquently than I ever could. Bravo’s airing repeats of the show on Fridays and Saturdays through April, so hopefully it’ll pick up a few more viewers.
You might recall my bitching over Ellen Burstyn’s Emmy win, which she earned with a meager 14 seconds of screen time. The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has thankfully revised the rules, and supporting actor/actress nominees will now have to appear in 5% of the film/show to be eligible.
The nominees in the important categories will also be selected by a mix of Academy votes and panel selections. Whatever. The only way the Academy is getting back in my good graces is if Friday Night Lights gets nominated for a bunch of stuff.