Some thoughts on returning and new shows that I wanted to share. If you don’t watch as religiously as I, then simply skim over and be on your way. Unfortunately for me, DVR and Dish Network’s HD signal have me as addicted as ever.
Off we go.
House: Loved the opening episode with House wreaking havoc in an insane asylum, but once the action shifted back to the hospital it's been subpar. House still doesn’t have his medical license back and Foreman (the black dude) has been running the department. Unfortunately for us, Foreman is also the dullest, least inspired character and the focus on his struggles trying to lead in House’s shadow have fallen short.
There is hope, though, as Chase and Cameron are back on the team full time and there is a marked difference in their confidence and ability to handle House’s sarcasm and bizarre methods of inspiration. Chase, in particular, is now funny, smart, and – in a stunning move – bold and decisive enough to do what he thinks is the morally correct thing.
One of this show’s understated and under appreciated aspects is how it lets it’s characters grow and evolve. Chase in season one is nothing close to this season’s Chase. If you’ve watched long enough, these characters don’t ring trite and shallow like other medical dramas (‘Grey’s Anatomy’, looking at you!); you feel like you’re watching actual people struggle with careers and relationships and a pain in the ass medical savant who loves tormenting everyone around him.
Grade so far: B minus with the note that it’s heading in the right direction.
Bones: With Booth still recovering from brain surgery, the zing of give and take between he and Bones hasn’t been as invigorating as past seasons. It’s getting there and I like that they haven’t been making his recovery an over night fix; he’s still forgetting minor things like his favorite belt buckle and what socks he likes to wear.
That said, the show seems to be struggling to it’s feet. There are moments that remind me of the best episodes and occasional home run shots (the Amish one was stellar), but it just seems to be missing something. The first few shows seemed rushed and lacked the traditional humor. Plus, the revolving door of interns is wearing thin.
Grade so far: C plus
The Office: With the confession that I missed the season premiere and that I had major reservations about this Jim and Pam marriage/expecting a baby storyline, the show hasn’t missed a beat. Jim and Pam’s wedding last week was The Office at it’s funniest. Throw away scenes always make this show hilarious such as Michael asking Oscar what to expect from his colonoscopy because he’s gay was tear inducing (‘Do I need a safe word?’). Kevin’s dress shoes being so offensive the hotel incinerated them so he winds up wearing tissue boxes around; another dance off that results in a torn groin (‘I know way to much about Andy’s scrotum’); Dwight ranting on about Jim at the kid’s table.
I could go on, but if you’ve watched the show you know what I’m talking about.
Grade so far: A
Fringe: I’m about 2 episodes from losing all interest in this show. It goes back and forth from being an ‘X-Files’ clone to some bizarre and impossible to follow story line about soldiers from an alternate reality crossing into our world for some reason or other. There are moments of intrigue and excitement (killing off one of last year’s main characters in the season premiere was bold), but for every one of those there are two eye rolling, ‘Are you kidding me?’ scenes.
It doesn’t help that the least interesting character on the show is the lead actress, who mopes around with no humor. For a super FBI agent, she doesn’t seem very smart or witty. If they’d let her loosen up maybe this show would get some much needed spark.
Grade so far: C minus
Curb Your Enthusiasm: I’ve been a fan for a while and have often found Larry David hilarious in a brusque, thinking out loud kind of way. The appeal was he was usually right in his criticisms and annoyances and would be the voice of our inner thoughts. So far this season, he’s coming off as more of a jerk than usual. It’s still funny, but I find myself cringing at him being an asshole over something meaningless. Before you could understand why he was annoyed or pissed off. So far this season he’s just being a dick.
That said, it’s still a funny show. The Seinfeld reunion in order simply to impress his wife is genius, as is having celebrities like Christian Slater show up to get abused for things like eating too much caviar.
Grade so far: B
FlashForward: I figured this to be right in my wheel house. Everyone blacks out for 2 minutes and 17 seconds, sees a brief flash of their futures and spends the next six months trying to figure out what the hell is going on.
Sadly, this isn’t living up to the initial premise. The first half of the premiere was great, but the slow-as-molasses investigation, as well as the touchy feely CONSTANT talking about what it all means is bogging things down.
I’m sticking with it for now, but I really hope the pace of the episodes picks up. That Charlie from 'Lost' is going to be a regular is one positive sign. By the way, Harold for the ‘Harold and Kumar’ movies is a horrible actor. His character is whiny and feeling sorry for himself because he’s convinced he’s going to be murdered. I speak for many viewers when I say just kill him off now. He’s annoying and depressing.
Grade so far: C minus
Modern Family: Far and away the funniest new sitcom since ‘Arrested Development’ came on the air. Perfect and hysterically funny work from everyone involved. There are way too many examples to give so just know that the laughs come fast and furious and often pile on top of each other as each episode progresses. Bonus points for bringing Al Bundy back where he belongs.
Grade so far: A plus
Community: Another great comedy. Joel McHale (from ‘The Soup’) plays a lawyer who learns his degree is a sham and needs to go back to school so he can get back in the game. Typical of a lawyer, he tries to scam his way through is courses. The characters are perfectly realized and the actors play off each other in hilarious ways. While watching I was wondering if there had been another show based on a college campus. It allows certain characters to recur through what classes are being taken. Several times, so far, the teachers are loonier than the students.
If you want a taste of the show you can watch it online at either NBC.com or Hulu. I recommend the one with the impromptu protest for a dead Central American reporter.
‘You can hang the piñata!’
‘Oh. God. You know he was beaten to death, right?’
‘That’s where we got the idea!’
Grade so far: A
Cougar Town: A horribly named, yet surprisingly funny, comedy starring Courtney Cox. While this tends to be women complaining about getting old and trying to bag younger guys, it’s actually the men that make this show tick. Cox’s teenage son, ex-husband, and recently divorced neighbor are the funniest things going. At one point she witnesses her neighbor escorting a hot, blonde 20 something to a cab while telling her ‘See, the walk of shame isn’t so bad if you have someone to take it with you.’
One problem I have is wondering how they can keep this going. Cox has been with three different male model type guys in three episodes and she’s still neurotic and insecure. I picture this wearing thin as evidenced by each show being less funny then the previous. I’m hoping the ex-husband gets more time as he is hilariously good natured no matter what is said to him.
Grade so far: B plus
The Good Wife: I’ve only seen the premiere, but it was good enough to make me want to check out the other episodes. I’ll get back to you on this one.
Grade so far: Incomplete
Mercy: I’ll admit this one had promise. Sort of a MASH version of Grey’s Anatomy. I liked that the main character is clearly traumatized by her time in Iraq, but it decides to take the relationship route rather than the dark comedy, she may be really fucked up in a funny, blunt kind of way. I wonder if the creators wanted to make it edgier only to be over ruled by the execs who thought it needed to appeal to women.
If so, that’s a shame. This one had some possibilities.
Grade so far: D for Dropped from the rotation. Although wifey still watches, so it may stick around.
That’s all I’ve been up on so far. The comedies have been gold so pick up a new one if you have time.
Today’s distraction: Test your television catch phrase knowledge. I only got 10 of 18, but in my defense I never watch Full House out of principle.