I can’t believe that summer is behind us already and networks are gearing up to bring us all their fall seasons. Fortunately some networks also decided to put their new shows up on iTunes or streaming from their websites, so I’ve gotten to watch some of the pilots of new shows even before they air. Let me give you my first impressions.
Another high concept, sci-fi show from executive producer J.J. Abrams, along with Supernatural creator Eric Kripke; all sounds pretty good, right? Well, early info did not have me excited. The premise is that all of the sudden the world loses all electrical power, so no cars, plane, appliances, computers, or lights work anymore. The world descends into anarchy, but after about 15 years, small pockets of civilization can be found (along with militia gangs). After her father is killed, a young woman named Charlie tries to find her uncle in order to get his help rescuing her brother from the militia but she unwittingly brings them right to his door. I am no fan of post-apocalyptic stories. I hate seeing people deal with looters, or might-makes-right thugs and warlords. I don’t like watching people express their “human nature” in a world without civilization or proper society. Thankfully there was only a reasonable amount of that in the pilot episode. It wasn’t only about those themes. There was a lot of action (including some bow and sword play), however, the big mystery is what happened to cause the global blackout. Charlie’s father may have known something before he died. Plus, there are a couple of big surprises in the last minutes of the episode that set this series up as more than meets the eye.
The New Normal
A new comedy from Ryan Murphy (creator of Glee) features a gay couple who are looking to have a child through surrogacy. After some unfortunate attempts, they happen upon a young single mom named Goldie. Goldie has had a bit of an unfortunate life. Things have not worked out the best for her and she walks in on her man with another woman. Along with her daughter (one of those adorable, precocious kids with more wisdom than their parents), Goldie decides to drive her way to another life. When both groups meet up, they seem to form a perfect-imperfect new family. Along for the ride is Ellen Barkin as Goldie’s grandmother (she’s basically doing the realtor character that she did on Modern Family, but way more racist and homophobic. She steals practically every scene.) The description probably sounds so-so, but the dramedy is pretty nicely written and the characters are almost immediately loveable.
The Mindy Project
The new show (which is not a spinoff of The Office, despite the guest appearance of Ed Helms) from writer-comedian Mindy Kaling (who played Kelly on The Office) is pretty well-scripted, but deals with more aging-single-woman neuroses than I can handle on a regular basis. Kaling plays a 31-year-old doctor who is dealing with her struggling career as well as her struggling personal life. The side characters are pretty good, but there parts are pretty small when the show focuses on Mindy. Kaling is a better actress than she seemed when playing Kelly (I hated that character). She hits a nice balance between bumbling and cool, between desperate and attractive, between shallow and insightful. This show actually has a pretty good chance if the right target audience catches on. I just know it won’t be me.
Ben and Kate
Unfortunately this was a kind of mediocre new sitcom featuring Kate, another single mom (with an even more adorable little daughter played by Maggie Elizabeth Jones from the movie We Bought A Zoo) but this time her crazy goof off brother Ben shows up unannounced (which he does all the time) and ends up living with them. I don’t have a taste for semi-losers who bungle their way through life and (thanks to the magic of Hollywood) somehow come through for their loved ones. Also, it’s not clear whether Kate is the “successful one” or also kind of a loser. All this losing, without much laughing, and this show does not seem worth my time. The requisite scene-stealer on the show is Kate’s friend, played by British actress Lucy Punch. She doesn’t seem to fit in well but she’s got a bit of bite that the rest of the show really lacks.
I don’t know if people just don’t learn, but this is another sitcom with Matthew Perry (aka Chandler from Friends) as the “sober” centre of an eclectic group of eccentrics. This time they are all supposed to be a support group that Perry’s character Ryan starts to attend after the death of his wife. This may seem like an odd thing to say, but I don’t think Perry makes a good centre. He always seems to be laughing “at” everyone else rather than “with”, so it’s hard to see any of the other characters as being realistic or viable. Plus, his characters are always the same: smug, repressed, and unable to change. I don’t think any of those qualities make for good comedy. Along for the ride are Ryan’s boss at the radio station, played by John Cho (who I love and should really get more work) and Tyler Williams (who used to be the lead in the family sitcom Everybody Hates Chris). That being said, the pilot presents a pretty funny scene where Ryan gets everyone in the group to compete for who has the saddest tale of woe. Nevertheless, this show is not my kind of sitcom.