The second week of the new tv season was full of surprises. I gave a chance to a few new shows (Code Black, Quantico, The Grinder) that I didn’t plan to watch (They were free episodes on iTunes — thank you, Marketing Department!) and I ended up liking them way more than expected. There are only a few returning shows on my list this week — no surprises there, though.
I’m not a big medical-show watcher (in fact I typically avoid them as they seem kind of hectic, messy, and manipulative), but I was pleasantly surprised by this show. In a drama about the busiest hospital emergency room in North America (the term “code black” means that there are not enough staff to help all the patients coming in), I expected a typical mix of characters, including the grizzled veterans (for this we have Luis Guzman, and Marcia Gay Harden as head ER nurse and doc respectively), the idealists (for now we have Raza Jaffrey as another ER doc), the by-the-books guy (chief of staff, Kevin Dunn) and a bunch of newbies. To reinforce the idea of busy-ness, there are tons of storylines (aka patients) in the first episode, but generally there was a pretty good blend of intensity, chaos, and drama. The show was not too technical with its medical stuff (you basically know what the doctors are doing and why). There pilot episode was a bit on the schmaltzy side: newbie saves a mom and her baby by performing a Caesarean; cute tween girl copes with the death of her father by meeting other cute tween girl who received dad’s heart. Overall, I think I might actually care about these characters a bit. If watching this episode proved anything to me it’s that I haven’t given medical shows a fair shake, which I’ll remedy by continuing to watch Code Black.
I hade been feeling a little FBI-fatigue lately, so I was not going to watch Quantico, especially when it seemed like it was going to be using the FBI academy as a backdrop for some pretty people to experience some drama. I knew there was going to be a big “Who from Quantico bombed New York?” mystery as the overall plot thread, but I have been feeling some terrorism-story fatigue as well. What I didn’t expect was that there would also be a lot of other mysteries on the show. The show is kind of a cross between 24 and Lost. In the first episode alone, the academy puts the trainees (who are all way too attractive, by the way, especially lead actress and Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra) through an intense exercise of learning and exposing each others’ secrets. That really upped the intrigue level for me. Some of the twists are a bit telegraphed or predictable, but there were enough of them that I was still pretty surprised. While I love the idea of diversity on TV, I don’t love the almost token way they have picked one of each type of minority for this cast (though they are missing someone physically or mentally challenged). Nevertheless, I am keen to follow this show where it leads. I hope they stay with the twists and turns.
I actually watched this show’s pilot episode twice: once with only one eye on the screen, and a second time after I got it for free from iTunes. On second viewing, I appreciated the true strength of the show. It’s not the premise (Rob Lowe’s TV-lawyer character returns to his family of real lawyers after his show ends) or the idea of the Hollywood fish-out-of-water in suburban America, it’s the wonderful dialogue and delivery from Fred Savage’s character — the insecure, under-appreciated, over-shadowed, real-lawyer brother to Lowe’s flashy, charismatic Grinder character. He has a lot of conversations with his wife behind Lowe’s back and they are wonderfully fun and self-deprecatingly honest. Yes, there is the expected courtroom scene where sensational fake-lawyering wins the day (totally smacks of Legally-Blonde-style theatrics), but if that were all that were in this show, it would be a dud. Savage’s character, and his relationship with Lowe’s character, really give this show the extra bit of charm that it needed to win a place on my viewing list.
So far, this one seems all in the premise. Charismatic ladies-man restauranteur, John Stamos, suddenly learns that a brief affair led to his now having a grown son and a young grand-daughter (who both suddenly show up one day at his restaurant). If you’ve seen the movie Three Men and a Baby, you should be pretty familiar with the concept that this eternally-single and unencumbered man-child suddenly needs to grow up in order to cope with these realities in his life (and it never hurts to have an adorable little kid to help him along). In this show they’ve tweaked the premise a bit by also throwing in a grown son, but it doesn’t really seem to change the formula very much. It’s also terribly convenient that the son is having trouble with the ladies — so, they each help each other out. I don’t know how much further this show can go from here. Are they going to throw baby problems at this newly-formed family? Are we going to delve into the son’s dating life? Surely we can’t keep having baby-sitting emergencies. Otherwise, I don’t see how having a grand-child truly affects the day-to-day life of a single, ladies-man restauranteur. Premise out.
I knew this show was going to be bad (though it is doing well in the ratings) but I didn’t know how bad. Ken Jeong (uncontrolled “id” of such franchises as The Hangover movies, and TV series Community) is seriously expecting us to buy him as a TV doctor? (I know he was a real-life doctor before becoming a comedian, but that just goes to show you how much you forget when you change careers, eh?) I think they had a really hard time placing this character somewhere between a real life Korean-American doctor, and the craziness of a Ken Jeong character. He ends up being supremely rude and insulting to one of his patients (who ends up suing). As a father (which is what the show is supposed to be about) he is not much better, insanely chasing his teenage daughter to some warehouse party (where he sadly tries to blend in by tying a tie around his head and tying up his shirt to expose his midriff — please put the skin away, Ken!). His wife’s character is a shrink, which is perfect for really helping us all cope with the crazy, but she mostly just responds pleasantly to his repeated come-ons (Married people are frisky too. We get it!) Don’t get me wrong, I am so happy to see another Asian-led show (especially a sitcom), but I don’t know if I can keep watching it. Plus, there is something hypocritical about broadening the racial spectrum, but presenting a receptionist who is such a sassy black-woman stereotype (Tisha Campbell, what happened girl?!)
The big cliffhanger from last season, after Captain Holt was shipped off to Public Relations by his nemesis Madeleine Wunch, was who would become the new captain. My guess is that we’re going to be cycling through a number of choices before ending up with Holt again (typical sitcom strategy), but for now we’ve got Bill Hader as a slightly unhinged captain fond of following the rules (aka his rules) and he gives everyone digital tablets with time trackers to monitor their efficiency. In small doses this new captain is actually pretty funny. Good thing he’s out of the picture now, though (oops, spoiler?) Meanwhile, Peralta and Amy are still dancing around their relationship and their kiss (at least until they sleep together — oops, spoiler?). I don’t think the showrunners are being very creative about their relationship, though. Everything seems textbook. I think they need to approach this somehow differently and more inventively. With the precinct’s separation from Holt and Gina, and less of a tight-knit group to build laughs around, I think the humour-level is dropping fast.
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD
After last season’s Terrigen mist incident that gave Daisy/Skye her quake powers, and the whole storyline with the colony of inhumans, now it’s spread around the world. Random people are gaining powers and the new SHIELD agents are apparently the global police force to reach these people and help them handle their powers (or lock them up until they can). Another group is after these individuals as well (surprise, surprise) so the SHIELD team is met with opposition along the way. I really did enjoy a clever bit of verbal sparring between Coulson and new baddie Rosalind Price (played by Constance Zimmer). Things get a little disjointed when they try to recruit Lincoln back into their alliance, but at least we get to see a giant porcupine man attack. This outbreak of mutation is clearly meant to call to mind the X-Men’s mutants, or Heroes’ evos, or any number of superpower sub-class of humankind. I’m getting mutant-fatigue as well, so I welcome a fresh take on the social issues that come with super-powers. Please don’t just deal with anti-mutant bigotry. That’s so cliche. Meanwhile, Simmons is once again missing (she was sucked away by a giant black obelisk that turned to goo and swallowed her at the end of last season) and Fitz is trying to be James Bond in order to find clues to save her (or at least find her). Why can’t Fitz and Simmons just be interesting scientist characters? Now they’ve got him trolling around the underworld for artifacts and clues, while she’s running for her life in some dark dimension. They’re nerds! Put them back in the lab, please.
So they’ve changed the game — at least for now — by putting Agent Elizabeth Keen on the run, framed for killing a senator. Of course, since she’s a woman on the run you know they have to change her hair colour — she’s a blonde now. I did enjoy the premiere episode, having Reddington use his villainous resources to help them try to escape the DC area. It was pretty fun and suspenseful. I also liked this week’s Blacklister: The Troll Farmer — at least I like the idea of a villain who uses social media to manipulate events in society. I’m not sure how realistic it is that there is no real check on such a hoax, but it’s interesting to imagine. What I didn’t like about the villain, though was how wimpy he seemed to be. Nevertheless, I’m not really sure where this show is going to go this season (once Keen is back on level-ground again). They seem to have played all their cards about her backstory and about her fake-husband and their connections to Reddington, etc. Perhaps they will introduce something new to the mix.