In keeping with this week where many season and series premieres have been so chock full of TV goodness that they needed to be split in two, I am also saving the new show premieres to be discussed in part two of my week one TV reviews! So here goes:
I loved season one of Heroes, when the show introduced us to all kinds of cool characters with their super-powers and life-struggles, then brought them together to save the cheerleader and save the world. However, the show famously lost its way in subsequent seasons to ultimately crash and burn. This revival seeks to rise from the ashes of the original show, to recapture some of the magic. I really wanted that to happen, and when I saw the online prequel episode I was pretty stoked that it might just do it, but I have definite mixed feelings about the two-hour premiere. We get to meet a few new characters with powers (which the show calls “evos”. I guess all the good names for people with super-powers have already been taken by other shows, etc.) I liked the story of a teenage boy, with the ability to teleport others, who had to keep moving from town to town with his mom in order to avoid unwanted attention. I didn’t like the story of a Japanese girl (Again with the Japanese? Is there someone in the writers’ room who is fluent in Japanese or something?) who can enter a video game and is fighting to rescue her father who has been abducted by samurai in the game — I know, it doesn’t make any sense, and frankly it feels like something out of a totally different show. There’s also a man who needs to decide what to do once he learns that his murdered brother was actually a super-powered, masked vigilante. Together these stories really did remind me fondly of the first series, but in between there was also a lot of the conspiracy stuff (with Primatech and Noah Bennett) which is really risky and may drag the show down again. Unless the show (which is a 13 episode mini-series) goes rapidly south, I’ll probably watch the entire thing, but I hope that they’ve got some good stuff on the way.
Oh the humanity! This was going to be my highlight of the new shows this season (I’ve been telling everyone to watch it), but after the premiere, I’m not sure how long I’m going to keep watching. This show is nothing like the recent cinematic revival that our fine felt friends have enjoyed. The humour is supposedly more adult, but that’s what makes it ridiculous (and sadly unfunny). Perhaps they are trying to make The Muppets into one of those cynical, adult animated shows that are pretty popular, but it just doesn’t work. Do we really care that Miss Piggy is still hurt from her breakup with Kermit? Kind of, but while her hot-tempered aggression was always funny, her bitterly sabotaging the show (and guest Elizabeth Banks) seems too cynical. Plus, watching the clueless Fozzie Bear meeting his human girlfriend’s parents could have been cute and funny, but the way it’s done just makes me wonder what’s mentally wrong with a woman who dates a fluffy muppet bear. I think the tone of this show is way off the mark and if they don’t fix that, I don’t know how many people are going to stick with the ruination of these beloved characters. I know I won’t.
What a campy, fun debut! Of course we’d expect nothing less from co-creator Ryan Murphy (who brought us Glee, American Horror Story, Nip/Tuck, and one of my favourite hidden treasures, Popular). This show is like a clever blend of Heathers, Cruel Intentions, Scream, and Pretty Little Liars. The show centres around a sorority run by queen beeoch, Chanel (played by Emma Roberts), who finds that people are being killed all around her. This was, of course, fine when it was her predecessor whose “accidental” murder led to her taking power, but as the killer in the red devil costume gets ever closer, she’s shaking a bit in her Manolos. Filling out the cast are her two minions (who she named Chanel No. 2 and Chanel No. 5) and a whole group of sorority pledges, including Lea Michele (from Glee) as “neck-brace girl” — an extreme version of the “ugly duckling” that Rachel Berry might have been if she didn’t get the glammed up. Also on the show is Jamie Lee Curtis as the dean. Far from being a by-the-books administrator, we aren’t quite sure of her motives either as she goes toe-to-toe with Chanel. Plot twists abound as we all wonder who the killer is and why. Meanwhile there is just so much deliciously-clever dialogue and scene-chewing to enjoy.
I wasn’t thinking of watching this series about a mystery woman who shows up in Times Square naked, stuffed into a large duffel bag, with no memories, and her body covered in tattoos. However, when early reviews came back positive, I decided to give this Bourne-esque series a try. The FBI take custody of this woman (who is just called Jane Doe on account of the amnesia) and on her back is the name of an agent, Kurt Weller, to be contacted. He doesn’t know her either, but he begrudgingly works with her to unravel the mystery of her tattoos (they are clues which lead to terrorist plots and maybe other crimes for them to solve) and her identity (for some reason she can speak and read Chinese, as well as fight and shoot). While the acting is mediocre (especially Sullivan Stapleton who plays Weller), the action was a little exciting. So far the tattoos seem to be merely a gimmick and plot device designed to assign new cases each week to the team. With its wooden lead, this show seems very similar to The Blacklist, minus the charm of James Spader. I watched that show for two seasons. I might as well give this one a shot too.
Speaking of plot devices designed to dispense cases each week, this series is set 50 years in the future and makes use of Precogs (Remember those three kids from the Minority Report movie with Tom Cruise who could predict and visualize murders before they happened?) as a way of leading Detective Vega (played by Meagan Good) to crimes before they happen as well. Ostensibly a follow-up to the original movie, Dash — one of two twin boys who were part of the Precrime program and now on their own — is trying to help society and bring some justice using the visions that he sees. While the crime-stopping is kind of your average cop-show fare, the other cool thing about the movie which has been carried to the show is all the future-tech that has been imagined. Of course we have the trademark holographic interface for the future computer systems from the movie, even slightly upgraded to be more portable, but there are many other little touches of futurism in the show as well. My favourite from the premiere was when the SWAT team shows up to arrest a suspect, they shoot cables across the warehouse and then glide along them like zipline-jetpacks. In my opinion, they should spend some more time speculating on the finer details of making this show feel futuristic (Would they still be using “Girl!” to address a black woman 50 years from now? It seems passé even today.) While not unfun, the show is hardly a sophisticated police drama or science fiction. The action flic soundtrack alone gives it a matinee-movie feel. Add to that a lot of familiar locations from here in Toronto where they film the show (BCE Place, and Toronto City Hall have both appeared prominently) and I’ll need a bit more time to get lost in the fantasy of futuristic Washington DC.
Another TV sequel to a sci-fi film (When did this become a thing?), Limitless picks up kind of where the Bradley Cooper movie left off. In fact, Cooper actually makes a cameo in the premiere episode (and will likely be recurring). Jake McDornan plays a different character from Cooper (obviously): a failed musician struggling to make something of his life who gets help from a former bandmate in the form of a clear little pill. When the pill allows him to use his full brain power he becomes capable of whole lot more, but he also ends up in a whole lot more trouble when his friend ends up murdered and he is the prime suspect. I really hope that the series really expands the universe of the film more because if it doesn’t, the premise is going to be played out quite easily. Frankly even in the premiere episode, I found myself wondering what was the big deal. Main character Brian Finch can do some things, and his voiceover narration and fancy animations may tell us that this is superhuman stuff, but there are many TV characters who can do this kind of thing without brain enhancing pills. In the show, there is some hint that the government is in a race with private interests to manufacture this NZT drug, but that’s not really much of a plot twist. If they don’t add some more intrigue, pretty soon we’re all going to be wondering why we even care about this guy and his story.
Life In Pieces
This forgettable ensemble comedy seemed like it might be another Modern Family, but it so isn’t. It uses a similar template by following separate storylines of characters within the same family. Unfortunately, the characters are not very likeable, and the dialogue is not as good. They tried to up the ante emotionally in the first episode by having both the birth of a child and a funeral. However, it was just too much and it actually seemed to cheapen the emotional value of both of those events by glossing over them too quickly. On top of that, the topics are a less family-friendly (even though they have a family-coloured veneer): a father takes his son to college, but when they get there he starts telling the son about losing his own virginity (to the couch — whaaat?!); the couple with the newborn talk a lot about how the wife’s body (down there) has been changed by giving birth; and between his parents being home, and her ex still living with her, another brother can’t find anywhere to have sex with his girlfriend. As much as I would enjoy one more good family sitcom, this is not it.
Another “high-concept” action show, this series should be known (if nothing else) for bringing Wesley Snipes back in front of our eyeballs (Whether that’s good or bad, I’ll let you decide). Alex Kane (played by Philip Winchester, who knows action television shows, but not very many successful ones) is a security expert who gets caught up in an attack on one of his clients and whose wife is killed in the process. On a quest to seek and destroy his wife’s killers, he ends up involved with two enigmatic individuals named Mr. Johnson (Snipes) and Cassandra King, who work for a mysterious cadre of the super-wealthy. Their job is to predict crimes using some of the most magically sophisticated computers and data analysis available in order for their patrons to bet on the outcome. In return for the resources to seek out his wife’s murderers, Kane is recruited by them for the role of The Player, who is the pawn in this game to try to prevent the predicted crimes. This show majorly resembles Person of Interest, another show involving computers, data, shadow conspiracy, prediction of crimes, and a secret vigilante group. I stopped watching that series, but what made it good when I did watch was the personal connection that the lead character of that show would make with the victim-of-the-week. In The Player, that might still be part of the show, but from the premiere episode, the producers seem more interested in the action than the people.
So that’s it for the first week. Quite a big bang (no pun intended)! On to next week where we’ll get more premieres (and these shows will air more episodes) — where will we find the time?