Posts Tagged ‘ community ’

The Upfronts 2014: NBC

nbc network logoIt’s upfront time once again, it does come around fast! For those that are unaware, upfront week is when each of the five major US networks announce their schedules for next year, thereby confirming which shows are renewed, which ones are axed and which new shows will be arriving. What that mean for me is that I watch a large number of terrible trailers, read some awful press releases and get generally despondent about the whole thing. It usually takes me until Wednesday to lose the will, this year I started off pretty far gone.

What’s Dead?
CommunityGiven that it has been on the bubble every single year, it’s more of a surprise that Community got the five seasons it did, I think it’s actually to NBCs credit that they supported it that long, five seasons is extremely respectable. Slightly less impressive are the two seasons that Revolution managed, although to be honest I’m a bit surprised it lasted that long.

Four underwhelming new dramas, Believe, Crisis, Dracula and Ironside didn’t see out the year, the first three at least got most of the way through their (admittedly short) seasons before it was announced at the upfronts they wouldn’t be back, Ironside was abruptly pulled from the schedules after just three terrible episodes. New sitcoms didn’t do much better, Growing Up Fisher, a sitcom I have no memory of hearing about got the plug pulled. The Michael J. Fox Show and Sean Saves the World were both cancelled mid-season and Welcome to the Family equals Ironside and was killed after just three episodes too.

What’s Survived?
Chicago FireOnly three new shows received pickups (3 out of 10), About a Boy based on the book and film of the same name and doesn’t seem to have been drawing a huge amount of attention. On the other extreme The Blacklist has been something of a smash, led by a hugely entertaining performance from the always reliable James Spader. The third pick up is for Chicago PD, which does numbers just about comparable with its parent show Chicago Fire, which is picked up for season 3.

Parks and Recreation and Parenthood have both been given shortened final seasons (7th and 6th respectively), both of which (like Community) lasted far longer than their ratings necessarily justified. NBC also renewed Law and Order: Special Victims Unit for season 16, making it the longest running primetime show on air at the moment, and closing in on Law and Order’s 20 season run. Grimm and Hannibal also get pickups for seasons 4 and 3 respectively.

What’s on this summer?
Crossbones (trailer): Blackbeard (John Malkovich) is a pirate. He does pirate things and is slightly insane. There’s something about him trying to decrypt a code or something, and he abducts some bloke to help him. The trailer starts out with appealing sea battles and ends up with tedious Da Vinci Code cyphers and lots of loaded dialogue. Not exactly blown away.

The Night Shift (trailer): The Night Shift in the Emergency Room is made up of a gaggle of quirky medics with an overabundance of issues. The trailer appears to be from at least two different series, one a budget version of Scrubs with cringey jokes and the other a cheap knock-off of ER with overdone sincerity and mediocre acting. Eesh.

Taxi Brooklyn (trailer): An “action-comedy” New York cop ends up with a French taxi driver as a partner. Bizarely I can only find the trailer in badly dubbed French, which means I don’t think I can watch the show without remembering that and finding it ridiculous.

Undateable (trailer): A group of ‘undateable’ men are taught how to play “the game of love” by some bloke who thinks he’s all that.

Welcome to Sweden (trailer): A celebrity accountant moves to Sweden to be with his girlfriend, cultural hilarity ensues. Or doesn’t.

Working the Engels (No trailer): Sitcom about a widow struggling to try and keep her husband’s law firm running to support the kids, despite her not actually being a lawyer. I’ve heard weaker premises, but it’s not much to go on.

What’s New?
Constantine (trailer): Yup, THAT Constantine, demon hunter and somewhat reluctant fighter against all things evil and weird is brought back in to the fight to save the daughter of an old friend who’s got the ability to see supernatural stuff. It’s a strong story, that’s why it’s been done so many times, and it sits nicely alongside Grimm on NBC’s schedule. I’m not sure the balance of dry humour and biblical epicness is quite right in the trailer, but it may even out in the show.

State of Affairs (trailer): Charlie Tucker (Katherine Heigl) is a CIA agent, she was also dating the President’s (Alfre Woodard) son when he was killed. Now the two of them appear to be on a crusade to kill whoever’s responsible, which I suspect will turn out to be more convoluted than just killing terrorists. It looks extremely Zero Dark Thirty, which may or may not be a good thing, but with the exception of some stunningly bad romantic comedies, Heigl is always watchable and Woodard brings significant class. However it does feature the painful line (in text) in the trailer – “All the Presidents men are nothing compared to her”.

The Mysteries of Laura (trailer): Debra Messing is the least believable homicide detective ever seen on television, she’s better as a single mother clinging to the edge balancing everything, but every time she holds a gun or tries to act tough I want to die a bit. She deserves better.

A to Z (trailer): Andrew likes Liam Neeson movies and Celine Dion, and Zelda likes cocktail parties and apparently having less back story than the guy. They apparently caught a fleeting glance of each other 2 years ago and now, like it’s destiny, they’re reunited. It’s not offensively bad, but I didn’t laugh either.

Bad Judge (trailer): Kate Walsh (Private Practice) is a judge, a slightly unorthodox one who is a drummer in a band, drinks too much and hasn’t exactly settled down, then she gets a phone call from a kid whose parents she put in jail and now needs some help. I always liked Walsh in Grey’s Anatomy and this could be a good vehicle for her, and I did actually laugh a couple of times!

Marry Me (trailer): Jake attempts to propose to Annie, but she has a meltdown. Then she proposes to him and accidentally gets him fired. Based on the 2 minute trailer, she’s a hateful person, he should avoid her like the plague.

Aquarius (mid season): In 1967 an LA police officer is investigating the disappearance of a teenage girl, the trail leads to a cult led by someone by the name of Charles Manson. Yup, THAT Charles Manson. The series will apparently follow what happens over the next couple of years, “ultimately ending with the infamous Tate-LaBianca murders”. That sounds like they’re pretty confident about how long the series will be, I sense frustration. Duchovny is a draw though.

Odyssey (mid season): A lawyer, a soldier and a political activist, three strangers, are pulled into an international conspiracy about a huge corporation that’s secretly funding Jihadists. There’s an awful lot of terrorists and secret agents on NBC this year and without a trailer to go on it’s impossible to know what the tone of this will be and if it’s going to have some interesting character stuff, or just dull conspiracy wrangling.

Allegiance (mid season): Mark and Katya are Russian spies that have been sleeping in the US for decades. Now Russia is trying to bring down America and they’ve been reactivated and told their son must become a spy for Russia, a bit of a problem, because he works for the CIA. It’s like The Americans: The Next Generation. Frankly it sounds pretty ridiculous, are they really doing a show set in the present day about the Kremlin trying to overthrow America?

Heroes: Reborn (mid season): Tim Kring restarts the hit series of 2006 and flop of 2007 with a new miniseries with new ‘heroes’ just discovering their powers. Did the world really need this? Can NBC not find anything original, or at least old but popular!

Mission Control (Mid season): Dr Mary Kendricks attempts to break into the boy’s club of NASA mission control in the 1960s. The blurb incudes “Houston, we have a problem!” and “They all want… to get a man on the moon. It might just take a woman to get him there”. I predict we are about to lose the battle of the sexes.

Mr Robinson (Mid season): struggling musician takes job as substitute teacher, gets crush on English teacher, clashes with uptight head teacher. Not sure whether it’s actually School of Rock or just stealing everything from it, but Craig Robinson is gonna have his work cut out being Jack Black.

One Big Happy (Mid season): Lizzy is gay, Luke is straight, they’ve been friends since childhood and they decide to platonically start a family together. Then Luke falls in love with Prudence, they get married, Lizzy is pregnant and “a different kind of family is born”. It’s an unsurprising but solid enough setup, will need a trailer to actually make a real assessment.

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Community: Season 2

CommunityWhile the first season of Community was good, the second season was verging on sublime. The show raises the art of the spoof to art form, making almost every episode an exquisitely crafted collection of references to every type of genre and trope that film and television have to offer. I had a quick look through the episode list for the season to see if I could pull out a highlight and found myself amazed all over again at the breadth of subjects covered. The whole series is like a love letter to television and film. I usually don’t like spoofs because I feel they’re mocking their targets, but the writers of Community manage to pick the subjects apart with such respect and care that they can’t be anything other than fans themselves.

Even my quibbles of the first season have been addressed a bit. Shirley developed a little more backbone to alleviate her simpering and the writers took the bold choice of actually making Pierce MORE unlikeable and having the group gradually treat him more like the enemy than a member. Each of the other characters has just enough development to sustain them, while not overdoing it so that they become useless for the comedy. Every character and combination gets a chance to shine, even the phenomenally annoying Chang has moments of redemption scattered through the year.

Floating above all of this though is Abed, one of the most entertaining and best used characters on television at the moment. In my review of the first season I described him as a “media obsessed soothsayer… quietly manipulating everything around him” and he raises that to an art form this season, playing both narrator, audience voice, critic and deus ex machine all at the same time. He’s not infallible though, he still under (or over) estimates his peers and that’s an even greater treat for the audience.

This has turned into a very gushy review, but I really can’t think of much to criticise. No storyline outstayed its welcome, every character had their moment and not a single moment went by without something that I either laughed or smiled knowingly at. Community is one of the smartest things on television at the moment, and is more satisfying by far than the majority of dramas out there.

The Upfronts – NBC

nbc network logoThe Peacock network, best known for… um… While other networks have a bit of a personality to them, I’ve never quite been able to look at a show and say “that belongs on NBC”. Judging by the number of cancellations they have, they’re not so sure themselves. Also given the lack of trailers with most of their new shows, I’m not sensing a massive amount of confidence in having found the answer.

What’s out
smashBig shows bowing out are 30 Rock and The Office, both solid performers (although I can’t stand either of ’em) that have come to the end of their run. At the opposite end of the spectrum is a bunch of stuff that never really got started. Matthew Perry notches up another failed show with the cancellation of Go On, while 1600 Penn, Animal Practice, The New Normal and Guys With Kids were all terrible looking freshman comedies although not as bad as Next Caller it would seem given that it was canned before airing a single episode. Do No Harm was an uninspiring drama and Deception was apparently a “prime time soap opera” and I’d never heard of it. Up All Night and Whitney both bow out after 2 seasons. The only cancellation I’m a smidge sad about is Smash, which wobbled about too much and never lived up to the hype, but I kind of loved it anyway (although I haven’t seen the second season).

What’s returning
CommunityLaw and Order still maintains a television presence as Special Victims Unit goes into its fifteenth season! Critical favourites Community, Parks and Recreation and Parenthood could all easily have been pushed out, but NBC is sticking with them. Chicago Fire has been a big success (firemen saving lives and taking their tops off, who knew?) and will spawn a spin-off. Grimm gets a third season and Revolution a second. Still on the fence though is Hannibal which only started very recently.

What’s new
The Blacklist – Raymond Reddington (James Spader, Boston Legal) is one of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives, but now he’s turned himself in, and is handing the FBI criminals. It looks a bit Following, a bit Silence of the Lambs and I was utterly hooked by the trailer. James Spader is a fantastic piece of casting and I’m perilously close to actually being excited about this one.

The Michael J. Fox Show – Mike Henry (Michael J. Fox, come on, I’m not telling you what he’s been in!), was a top news anchor who’s returning to work after 5 years of dealing with his Parkinson’s Disease and kids. It’s weirdly semi-autobiographical and is trying to find a fine line between self-indulgent, inspiring and manipulative. Given the title… I’m not sure it’s been successful. But Fox’s talent may make it work.

Ironside – a remaking/re-imagining of the 1960’s series. It’s pretty much a standard New York police drama, just with the lead character in a wheelchair. That’s not to say that modulation isn’t an interesting or an important one, just that it feels perilously close to a gimmick.

Sean Saves the World – Pretty standard ‘balancing work with parenting’ thing, it’s just that Sean (Sean Hayes, Will and Grace) is long divorced and gay and his teenage daughter has only just moved in with him. Oh and there’s a difficult mother too. It’s the least funny thing I’ve seen all day and that’s saying something.

Welcome to the Family – Dan (Mike O’Malley, Glee) and Karina (Mary McCormack, The West Wing) think they can finally start their lives again when their daughter graduates and heads to college. The plan falls through when she returns home pregnant. Now the baby’s dad and his parents are on the doorstep and no one gets along. The only thing going for this is the cast and that it’s not as hideous as Sean Saves the World. I still won’t be watching though.

Dracula – Dracula (Jonathan Rhy Meyers, The Tudors) is bringing electricity to 19th Century London, but he’s also pursuing those who made him a vampire. I’ll be honest, I’m confused by both the trailer and the synopsis provided in the press release. It looks expensive, but also a bit rubbish.

About a Boy – Based on the Nick Hornby book (and presumably the Hugh Grant film), “man-child” Will discovers that women find single dad’s irresistible and sets up a deal with his 11 year old neighbour. Sounds annoying, but then I actually liked the film. Mind you I’m not sure the relatively unknown David Walton (Bent? Perfect Couples?) has Hugh Grant’s screen presence.

Believe – I’ll start with the good news, it’s written and directed by Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) and Exec Produced by J.J. Abrams. The bad news is that the blurb is so awful I lost the will to live half way through. It’s something about a 10 year old girl with ‘magical powers’ like telekinesis and predicting the future who tours from city to city with her protector, a former death row inmate. It sounds cheesy, but maybe the names attached can pull it off, without a trailer it’s hard to predict.

Chicago PD – a spin-off from Chicago Fire based in the local police department with the beat officers and the intelligence unit combating organised crime. Hank Voight (Jason Beghe, Californication) and Antonio Dawson (Jon Seda, Treme) from Chicago Fire will transplant to this series and it will be interesting to see how the former, a villain on Fire, will be allowed to grow. For some reason there are no other fire department shows on television, and Chicago Fire filled that gap well, but given the plethora of cop dramas, I’m not sure that there’s anything special enough to make this stand out.

Crisis – A bus load of teenagers from an elite school are taken hostage, their parents are diplomats, CEOs and even the President, so how far will they go to get their children back, and what will that mean for the country. It’s an interesting and different concept, giving plenty of material for both the families and the officials. It stars Dermot Mulroney (My Best Friend’s Wedding) and Gillian Anderson (The X-Files) so it’s certainly got potential.

Crossbones – 1715, Blackbeard (John Malkovich, Being Himself) reigns over an island of pirates. An undercover assassin is sent after him, but finds that maybe Blackbeard isn’t as clearly evil as he seems. It’s a pretty original setting for a television show, but without a trailer, it’s hard to get particularly excited by a synopsis that falls a bit flat.

The Family Guide – the Fisher family are pretty unusual, Dad (J.K. Simmons, The Closer) is blind, Mom (Parker Posey, Louie) is rebelling because she didn’t when she was a teenager, daughter is obsessed with the 80s and son has always been his dad’s eyes but is now being replaced by a dog. It’s narrated from the future by the adult son, looking back the time where they all “discover who we needed to be”. Sigh.

The Night Shift – The night shift at San Antonio Memorial is home to a “special breed” of doctors, now not just challenged to save lives, but also to save money. I like the idea, but the names attached are all a little C-list with Eoin Macken (Gwain from Merlin), Ken Leung (Miles from Lost), Brendan Fehr (Michael from Roswell) and Freddy Rodriguez (Rico from Six Feet Under) – all fun in their roles, but the lack of heavy weights undermines everything a bit.

Undateable – Danny (Chris D’Elia, Whitney) takes on a group of romantically challenged friends in an attempt to teach them everything he knows about love. Sounds hideous.

Links
NBC has more information about all their shows on their website. I guess the trailers may turn up there at some point. The press release and schedule summary are at the Futon Critic.

Community: Season 1

CommunityWay back in 2009, I hadn’t yet given up on watching pilots of comedy series, so did actually review the Community pilot and liked it. However despite the critics absolutely adoring it, I didn’t watch it, not least because it was buried on some obscure channels in the UK.

Jump forward three years and a couple of friends forced the first season dvd upon me and nagged until I watched it.

It was good.

It’s the kind of show that could relatively easily be dismissed, but the more attention you pay, the more it rewards you with a lot of exquisitely crafted writing that takes a sideways look at everything and crafts spoofs of just about every subject under the sun.
The episodes which are built around referencing genres or specific films/shows are the high point of the series. Each one is entirely respectful, as if the writers genuinely love whatever they are pulling apart, poking fun without being mean or snide. The other clever thing is that you don’t necessarily need to be a fan of the target, or even know anything at all about it, because the story, characters and jokes are all well enough done that the show is still entertaining.

The show doesn’t always manage to hit the right balance for me, the characters walk a very fine line between being quirky and ridiculous. It’s often not really believable that Chevy Chase’s Pierce hasn’t been lynched by his fellow students, or that anyone tolerates Shirley’s simpering for more than one class. Mind you I can forgive most of those problems because while not all the characters work, the writers did introduce us to Abed, who sort of floats through the series like a media obsessed soothsayer. Rather than have the biggest geek be completely disassociated from reality, in many ways he’s actually the member of the group most in touch with the real world, quietly manipulating everything around him. He isn’t the star of the show, but he is the heart and soul of it.

With each episode lasting just 20 minutes or so once you strip out the adverts the episodes never outstay their welcome, each carefully constructed to build up towards a satisfying ending – be it a sweet one or a cynical one. It does exactly what a comedy should do, makes you laugh and realise how daft real life is.

Also – any show that generates a gag reel almost as long as an episode has to be worth a look.

Pilot Review: Community

I don’t watch many half hour comedies, they don’t really fit in with the way I watch TV and most of them just aren’t funny to me. I don’t think Community is really going to change that, but I did find it surprisingly funny.

It’s a few days into the new year at Greenvale Community College and the traditional bunch of lovable misfits are brought together in a fake study group set up by Jeff, a disbarred lawyer, solely to get a date with someone. Jeff’s equal parts horribly manipulative and hilariously insightful. The rest of the group are solid as an ensemble, but unremarkable individually based on the 22 minutes of pilot episode.

With a solid cast the only other thing you need for a comedy is good writing (it’s not like the direction or plot are really very important in half hour comedies), and the best thing about Community is that the dialogue is fast and smart. The use of language is elegant and snappy, each of the characters has a very different way of speaking and each of them is well written and funny in different ways. I laughed, I chuckled and I had a smile on my face through pretty much the whole thing. The ending gets a little sappy, but it made sense to round the plot of the pilot out that way.

Links: Official site at NBC, imdb, wikipedia, tv.com

I can’t find any information if a UK channel has bought the show.