Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pilot Watch: Outsourced

Wow. That was, well, it was offensive. Not funny, not charming, not tactful at all. Maybe it'll get better, but the pilot of NBC's new Thursday comedy was horrible. I hate it already. It was somehow predictable and shocking at the same time. While I appreciate the fun of selling silly American novelty items through Indian call center workers who don't understand them, the way it's executed makes the show seem like a glorification tool for the most idiotic aspects of American culture. And the bit about Indian food making you sick was just plain ignorant. The whole ordeal made my head hurt. NBC bumped Parks & Recreation for THIS!?! That network really is run by a bunch of boneheads.

Monday, September 27, 2010

This Week in Reality

Top Chef had their uneventful reunion show this week. It served little purpose other than to put further salt in the wound of Kevin's unexpected (read: not really deserved) victory. What was great though was that they announced that in December they'll start their first ever All-Stars season. I love a good all-stars season. And while I'm sad that there'll be no previous winners in it (and no Brian Voltaggio), there will be such awesome people as Spike, Marcel, Antonia, Carla, Fabio, Jen (the great one from the terrible Hosea season), Jen (the pretty cool one from the awesome Voltaggio season), Tiffany and Angelo. Look for the amazing Richard Blais to finally top the competition. Cannot wait!

Top Chef: Just Desserts returned for a second episode. There is something kinda badass about the original Top Chef. It's trial by literal fire. Just Desserts is, well, fluffier, obviously. The chefs are certainly no less talented (they may even be more talented) and the skill set may even be harder (there's no tasting a cake before you serve it, it's chemistry and faith) but it just doesn't have the cool factor that its predecessor does. It's fun, but it's just a little less thrilling. That said, it does have a good batch of crazy. Early favourite Seth (who looks delightfully like Michael C Hall) busted out many many childish tantrums and breakdowns in this episode alone, a highlight being the tearful pronouncement that "The Red Hots are for my mommy!" during a candy quickfire. His cool-headed bro (aka only other straight guy) Morgan stepped up in my estimation by flat out calling him an asshole on camera when he was being, well, an asshole. That said, he's a talented chef and I feel bad that he's being so ostracized. Clearly he's got some screws loose and flipped out, treating people badly, but he apologized and tried to make up for it, and no one would let him back in- it was sad to watch. But bitchiness aside, these are talented chefs.  Zach's quickfire desert was incredible and I have a feeling I'll grow to really love Yigit and Erik the baker. It's a good cast, though Malika definitely should have gone before Tim, I do not like that woman. And Gail, my favourite Top Chef judge, is a fine host alongside pretty darn cool head judge Johnny Iuzzini.

Survivor eliminated the macho guy (ironically named Shannon) from the young team that previously thought themselves indestructable. Despite some crazy behaviour from lunatic Holly, the older team pulled together nicely in this one and a mini-alliance formed between Jill and Marty that seems promising. I don't know why but I'm looking for Yve to step up as a great player on that tribe. As for the youngins, they're already having serious unity struggles, NaOnka is clearly a lunatic who inspires me to throw things at my screen and Brenda seems like trouble. I'd say Alina and Kelly B seem like the smartest of the young lot but something about the way Jud (aka Fabio) comported himself at tribal council was strangely impressive; he doesn't seem that smart but he seems kind of smart, if you know what I mean, I like him.

Project Runway FINALLY eliminated their most obnoxious designer, Ivy. The woman was all attitude and construction skills without the design aesthetic to back it up, so glad she's gone. Michael C landed in the bottom for the first time for what I thought was a fairly pretty dress and Andy landed back in the top with a truly monstrous "high fashion" creation. Valerie, an early frontrunner, had a breakdown and basically solidified her slow descent from finals material. Super annoying and egomaniacal Gretchen got lots of praise for a hideous velvet dressing gown thing but likable Christopher and April were safe. Mondo, easily my favourite designer/character of the lot took another win including a great prize of money and exposure for an awesome "very Mondo" colourful creation. I'm predicting a Mondo/Gretchen finale with that third spot up for grabs (my controversial pick: Michael C).

The Amazing Race returned with a new season and all sorts of arrogance (lots of boyfriends who think they're boss, stupid blonds making up "mean girl" nicknames, etc...) and a couple teams worth rooting for (mainly the acappella guys, love them). I'm also going to make my prediction for this year's winner right here and now: I think the doctors have a shot at being the first all-female team to make it, I really do; they're athletic and smart with the type of relationship that's unshakable enough to guarantee success. It promises to be a typical but entertaining season.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Awesome is Back

Community returned this week with what is so-far my favourite premiere of the season. Last season's (actual) funniest new show was in uncertain territory after a mediocre finale that threw the characters into lame romantic conundrums. But after this week, season 2 appears to have the potential to be even better than most of the first.

From the brilliant C story of Troy turning Pierce into the new "Shit My Dad Says" twitter feed to the awesome game of love chicken that Jeff and Brita undertook as the show's perfect answer to an overly dramatic cliffhanger, the premiere was as good as they get. It had Betty White, as everything does, but didn't need her at all. Community's so great on its own, the guest stars and marketing stunts that help out so many other shows are totally unnecessary. Even Ken Jeong, the show's broad absurdity go-to character was enjoyable in this episode (though here's hoping he doesn't ruin future ones now that he's in the study group and apparently mentally ill, or possessed).

My favourite thing about the premiere? Abed. Obviously. His lovable TV obsession is constantly hilarious and brilliantly self-referential, never more than in this episode. He brought some of the episode's funniest moments, like when he asked Shirley if she'd spinoff with him and she replied with "Is this you being meta?". But that same gimmick of his provided the deepest moment in the episode as well, when Jeff accused his quirk of being "so season one", Abed replied: "I can tell life from TV Jeff. TV makes sense, it has structure, logic,  rules,  and likable leading men. In life we have this, we have you." It hurt us, it hurt Jeff and by god it was wonderful.

That's how you start a season.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Glee's Back. Everyone's Excited. I Guess.

Glee returned to TV this week and there was hoopla. Of course there was hoopla. There always seems to be hoopla. Desperate fans couldn't wait to set their eyes on their beloved songbirds after the long summer hiatus. The biggest show on TV (not numbers-wise or praise-wise, but I'm assured that it's the biggest) entered into its second season with some definite high points and an altogether pretty good episode. Here's the breakdown:

The Surprisingly Awesome

Mike. With the elimination of Matt (he "transferred"), there seems to be only 1 random guy left in Glee. His name's Mike, and while he's always been there, he got more screen time in this episode than all of last season. He still only said 2 lines, but he was in a lot of shots, a featured dancer in a couple numbers and was even a part of an emotional subplot involving Tina and Artie. I'm definitely rooting for the exploration of Mike as a character. Before we add even more people, let's define the one's we already have.

The Beist. I love love loved the addition of the school's new football coach (last name Beist pronounced "beast"). I'm really hoping they keep her around and keep giving her stories. The most detailed character introduced in quite some time, Beist could be seen as a predictable archetype but is in fact a much more complex invention. She seems tough but is pretty vulnerable, but when she gets picked on she deals with it with a skin thickened by years of torment. She doesn't break down and give a sentimental speech about fitting in, she stands up straight and moves on. She's a tough woman with a soft center, a guy's girl in red lipstick and earrings (bet you didn't notice that- that's character detail! I know, it's foreign to Glee viewers, but you'll get used to it), an outsider who's okay being one.

Sunshine. The addition of the foreign exchange student may be predictable in terms of Rachel's corresponding arc but man, with a voice like that she's welcome on my TV screen any time.

Sue and Schue. One of the episode's most interesting arcs was pretty well squashed by the end. But the fact that it existed means good things. Sue and Mr. Schue were getting along. United against a common enemy, their relationship has moved forward, changed. Change is good. Change is what keeps a series alive. I liked it.

The Tedious and Predictable
In sadder and much more Glee-ish news,

Puck. He barely got a line, not to mention a story. And with the new character additions, it's seeming less and less likely that he's get a really good one anytime soon.

The Good Guy Routine. Mr. Schue has a dark "cool guy" quality to him that is in desperate need of mining. I thought that's what we might get as he got sucked into Sue's scheme to torment Beist early in the episode. True to form he was Mr. Goody-2-shoes once more by the end of the episode, had his after school special moment and returned to the starting line, having gone nowhere and discovered nothing new.

Too much Rachel. Glee's least interesting, most annoying, incomparably intolerable character keeps getting more and more spotlight. Partly to blame for this is the press for their endless coverage of Ms Diva (Lea Michele) and partly to blame is the Emmy committee, who seems under the mistaken impression that she's the breakout star of the show. It has got to end. Yes, she can sing, we know. Now demote her to supporting player before I scream and give some of the (super potential-filled) others their chance to shine.

The Song Machine. Like I said, these kids can SING. This isn't High School Musical, where they went out and found a bunch of good looking people to sing lip synch on camera to pre-recorded pop songs. These kids are singers. Like "know where their breath should come from, how to support a note, intention behind every line" singers! Enough with this sound studio recorded, auto-tuned crap, LET THEM SING! I should be used to it by now, and on high production numbers like "Empire State of Mind" I don't care, quite frankly. But when you put Charine Pempengco on a stage with a mic and a ballad and don't let her sing it live, you're cruisin for a bruisin. Everything sounds over-produced and hence underperformed. The singers look like they're playing charades, they don't have the grounding and gravitas of someone belting out the high notes with everything they have. Until these producers realize the strength and vulnerability they're robbing these tremendous singers of they'll never be allowed to really show us what we know they can do.

Overall, this was a really good episode of Glee. It had some really great moments and some torturous elements of promising things to come. But it's Glee, so all those hopes were quickly and predictably dashed to the ground. Nothing hurts more than lost potential.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pilot Watch: Mike and Molly

"I know I'm never gonna be a size 2. That's fine, because I happen to like who I am. There's nothing wrong with me as a person: I'm smart, I'm funny, I recycle! I just want to be able to control what I eat." That's a beautiful sentiment, a wonderful speech. It shows strength of character, sense of self and a healthy understanding of reality, body image and nutritional concerns. If only it were true.

That speech belongs to Molly, of Mike and Molly, which premiered last night on CBS. This speech was the obligatory "look, we're people, not just fat people" moment in the episode. It wasn't consistent with everything else the character did and said, or with the general tone of the show. The rest was all fat jokes. And bad caricature supporting players (really bad).

I'll be giving Mike and Molly at least a couple more episodes before I decide I hate it forever. Why? Because I didn't like The Big Bang Theory at first either, and now I love it (another Chuck Lorre production). Also, because I love Melissa McCarthy. She's sweet, funny, and, I think, very pretty. I'm happy to see she's in a lead role but sad that the only way she could get it was to allow CBS to openly mock her on national television. The stars of Mike and Molly deserve better than silly dialogue, flat characters and "playful" (read: hurtful) insults.

Possibly the most depressing show I've seen all season.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

All Grown Up, My Boys Move On

Sunday was the finale of My Boys. The always charming, often funny TBS sitcom enjoyed 4 seasons on the air, but only had 9 episodes for each of the last 3 offerings. That meant that it would be months on end before I saw the most relatable show on TV each year. And with the recent announcement of its cancellation, I'll never see My Boys again.

For 4 years, PJ Franklin has been the most approachable woman on the air- a true guy's girl in a girly girl TV world. And her wonderful boys Brendan, Mike, Kenny and Bobby have been some of the sweetest TV's ever seen. Even Stephanie, who took a long time to grow on me, will be sorely missed.

This last season saw the boys move on towards their final episode, appropriately entitled "My Men". PJ and Bobby moved in together and he's getting ready to start law school. Kenny decided to move to London with Stephanie, and Mike met the woman of his dreams, marrying her in a surprise ceremony in the finale. Oh, and Brandon bought Crowleys, their beloved neighbourhood bar, saving it from ruin. All the characters were sent on their way, smarter and more mature than when we met them. They're grownups now, and though they're moving on, we're left knowing they'll always be friends. And they'll always have their home to go back to, under Brando's management.

My Boys was about friends. It wasn't hollywood TV glamour or shock value "realism", it was based on real friends and clearly played by a cast that quickly became real friends. They could have be you and your friends; at times they certainly seemed like me and mine.

One of the most fun ensembles of characters ever, the my boys boys (and 2 girls) will be sorely missed from my TV schedule. But even if they won't be around anymore, I'm incredibly glad to have had them at all.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ballad of a Weak-Willed Victim of Manipulation

I'm too smart for Bachelor Pad (we all are). Why am I not watching Mad Men? Alas, I do not like Mad Men, but I sort of enjoyed Bachelor Pad. I mean, I enjoyed it whenever I didn't hate it. (Even in its worst moments I generally don't hate The Bachelor- but Bachelor Pad, yes, very much).

I pretty much knew I would hate it going in: they picked the absolute least likable contestants they could have (except for Gia- I always liked her) and gave them terrible terrible competitions to play (pie eating? really?!) then rigged the competition so that the undramatic people left without ceremony (that spin the bottle game that eliminated 3 girls was SOO predictable). BUT. The awesome Chris Harrison was joined by Melissa Rycroft (the most popular contestant ever, pretty much), the occasional clever competition led to some great footage (mostly the kissing one- that was awesome/gross/awesome) and the general game setup could not have worked out better for them (there was actual love AND money- who knew?!)

Somehow, Bachelor Pad produced more promising couples than The Bachelor ever did. Somehow, strategy actually came into play. And, most surprisingly, I came to really root for some of these horrible horrible people. I mean, some are just unredeemable, for example I truly believe that Elizabeth should be in a mental institution, but that was just her. Really, just the one.

Here's the creepy thing. If someone had asked me in June who my least favourite bachelor ever was, I'd have said Dave. Bachelorette? I might have said Elizabeth (still true) or Natalie if I had been able to remember she existed. And the most notorious villain in show history? Wes, definitely Wes. I remember liking Kiptyn, and while I've never been at all fond of Tenley, I never hated her. I also recall thinking Nikki was smart, Juan sweetly misunderstood and Craig horrifying. Now, I'm very fond of Dave, love Wes, respect Natalie, find Kiptyn dull, despise Tenley, consider Nikki a moron, and know Juan to be sleazy and Craig not all that bad. So what's up? That's just weird.

I'm putting this one on the show's editing team. Or on my own stupidity. Either way, I'm horrified. Whether it's because I lack the judgment skills to see through unfair editing during The Bachelor or lack the conviction to stick to my opinions on people going through Bachelor Pad, I'll never know. But I do know that ABC and their evil band of Bachelor minions have me in the palm of their hand. For 2 hours every Monday night since May I have felt exactly how they've wanted me to feel. I hated Dave but I was rooting harder for him tonight than I have for any reality contestant in awhile. I liked Gia and, like everyone else, never trusted Wes, but I cheered when he kissed her and professed his love. I was also super excited to hear "Love Don't Come Easy" or whatever that song is called- really!?!

Then they assigned the hottest female choreographer (in some brilliant cross-promotion with Dancing with the Stars) and grossest (or "sexiest") dance there is to crazy jealous Elizabeth and her sleazy boyfriend Kovacs and I knew the producers had their thinking caps on for tonight's episode. When they capped the season with my 2 favourite contestants (Natalie and Dave) facing a prisoner's dilemma for the money, I even started to believe that Bachelor Pad was a smart show. But maybe that makes it smart. Maybe pie eating contests and twister competitions aren't what define the show, maybe it's the fact that they got me. Wool over eyes.

I'm a silly silly gullible girl. Pathetic.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pilot Watch: Nikita

The CW's other new offering this season is significantly more promising. A little bit Dollhouse, a dose of Chuck, part late-series Prison Break and lots and lots of Alias, Nikita is suitably kickass and acceptably sexy. It's not really anything new but it is lots of things entertaining. Melinda Clarke and Shane West add a certain element of the "oh, I used to love them" nostalgia and Maggie Q proves an incredibly engaging star.

Besides, it's about time The CW had a new show that 1) wasn't about teenagers and 2) had great action production values. Nikita is both of those things. It's got a large set of characters, a complex mythology/back story and lots of places to go. It holds promise, that's what I need out of pilot, not perfection, just promise.

It could get boring fast but for now at least I'm totally on board with Nikita.

Pilot Watch: Being Judgemental of "Hellcats"

Seriously? I'm the girl who loves One Tree Hill. I find truth in Gossip Girl, have sophisticated theories about the legitimacy of The OC, thoroughly enjoy 90210 and honestly think early Dawson's Creek was TV brilliance. But this is where I draw the line.

The only thing less engaging than a cheerleader is a falsely contrary "smart kid" who possesses disproportionate rage towards them. And that's all Hellcats is about. It's got the obligatory "alternative" but still gorgeous girl who's too "smart"/cool for the mainstream (and has the obligatory boy name to go with it- in this case it's Marti) and the obligatory weak mcguffin that forces her to interact with the mainstream she has no real reason to hate. Basically, the CW's newest story about hot people doing silly things actual people don't do is pretty horrendous. 20 minutes in, the only person I could stand to listen to was the psychokiller guy from One Tree Hill, and even that was a stretch. If it wasn't for Buffy alum D.B.Woodside, I wouldn't have even made it that far. Flat out not doing the choreography does NOT get you on the cheerleading team. Pre-law students do NOT wear that much eyeliner or have abs like that. And in NO world is cheerleading the only way to save your college carreer. There's fun then there's stupid, frivolous and a waste of time. I'm sure you can figure out where Hellcats falls.

I may be being too harsh. Who knows, I may end up giving Hellcats another chance if it doesn't get canceled in the next few weeks. Afterall, I hated the new 90210 and wrote it off after 10 minutes and now watch it faithfully. You never know. But from what I can tell so far, Hellcats is as bad as it gets.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Finale Here We Come

It's disappointing to admit that this season's Big Brother is barely keeping my attention. There have been a few ups and downs but overall the strategy is lackluster, the contestants are a bit boring, and a good amount of really dumb decisions are being made. I will say one thing though: for the first time in a very very long while it appears as though friendship is running the game.

Ragan said it best the other night after his eviction, this is a season where the contestants are more concerned about loyalty than anything else. Lane's friendship with Britney overpowered his early alliance with The Brigade as he continues to bring her closer to the finale. Similarly, Lane ignored the surprisingly persuasive strategy talk from Ragan in favor of keeping his buddy Hayden in the house. The only contestant who threw loyalty out the window was Matt when he attempted to get Ragan put up on the block, and his eviction was a direct result of Britney punishing his disloyalty. Since when do people NOT back stab their friendships and alliances in this house? For such an immature group of people who pick on one another nonstop (cough Ragan and Britney cough) it's surprising to see how moral they actual are.

So our little hamsters are slowly dwindling and we're down to four. With the HOH being crowned tonight, we'll be one step closer to next weeks finale. If the start of the competition is any indication of who will be winning, expect to see Hayden take HOH once again and put of Lane and Britney. The nominations really don't matter since the veto player holds all the power this week. So who will win? More importantly, who deserves to win? Or does anyone even deserve it? Here's my take on the 4 remaining contestants and a countdown of the most deserving:

4/ Enzo- Aside from winning veto last week, Enzo's physical gamesmanship has been the joke of the season. He may have attempted the social game by befriending everyone and staying out of the drama, but this attitude has already been called out as a poor strategy. Nobody buys that Enzo is really "every one's friend" and his feigned closeness with Brenchel will most likely lose him a few votes if he makes the finale. Add in the fact that Lane will evict Enzo long before he tosses out Hayden, and you have yourself a done deal. Sorry Enzo but it seems like your time in the house is almost out.
But will he win?: No. The only possible shot he has at taking home the half a million is if he somehow ends up in the final two with Britney. In that case, he will likely get votes from at least Brenchel and Hayden so he could pull out a victory. In that scenario, Britney would probably get Ragan, Kathy, and Lane's vote with the deciding vote being Matt.

3/ Lane- The third and second spots are somewhat interchangeable but Lane might be making one fatal move in this game. For starters, Lane began playing just a few weeks ago. His overall competitions are not that great but when push comes to shove he can pull out a win here and there. Lane biggest mistake in the house is not reconciling his desire to take Britney to the finale with his strategy. It's a done deal that Lane will evict Hayden over Britney if given the chance (based on his diary room confessions), so he should have taken every step to ensure that. Ragan had proved to be an honest competitor prior to his eviction, so he clearly would have protected Lane and Britney going into the finals (and I'd wager Ragan thought he was smart enough to win the final HOH over both of them thus ensuring his own safety). If Lane had forced a tie breaker and sent his BF in the house packing, then he would have ensured a win for his side during the HOH and probably even a win for his side on the Veto (since there only competition would be Enzo). The odds seem so ridiculously in his favor that this was a huge mistake on Lane's part. If you want to take the girl to the end, you keep the guy who wants here there too!
But will he win: Depends on who he potentially takes to the bottom two. If it's up to Lane, he will take Britney in which case he might. Although, even then I could see some of Britney's enemies voting for her simply because she played a better overall game. If he's with Enzo in the end, he wins. If he ends up there with Hayden, he has no shot.

2/ Hayden- There isn't much to be said about Hayden's strategy because he really doesn't have any. Hayden deserves to win only because he wins a good amount of competitions and he played the social game to perfection. Part of this game has always been lying and cheating your way to the end but another part is thinking long term and befriending everyone to play only for the cotes. From day one it seems like Hayden has played for votes only and even putting up Brenchel during week one didn't create a target for himself. Clearly, he knows how to schmooze the best of them. The problem with Hayden is that nobody knows where his true loyalty lies. He seems to be Brigade all the way but, if you follow the live feeds, he also made a final three pact with Britney and Lane. Regardless of what happens this week, I can't see Hayden leaving and that means he's doing something right.
But will he win: Absolutely. If I had to bet money right now, I would be all in on Hayden. Enzo is officially targeting Britney. Lane wants Enzo out so his two besties will take him to the end. Britney will probably do whatever Lane wants, but she may be the only threat to Hayden's eviction this week. If Britney loses POV, Hayden will stay till the final three. He has a pretty good chance of winning the final HOH and if so, the game is his to lose.

1/ Britney- Really the other three contestants don't come close to this southern belle. Sure she may have allied herself with Lane, but Britney is the only non-Brigade member to make the finals. She somehow weaseled her way into arguable the tightest alliance in Big Brother history. On top of that, Britney has won several vetoes and an HOH. The contestants will see her eviction of Matt as a game changing move, even though it was influenced heavily by the three boys. Britney can do one thing that the other boys can't, and that's portraying herself as a strong contender in this game.
But will she win: Probably not. If she makes the finals with Hayden she's done. Lane and Enzo she should be able to beat but it depends on how bitter the jury is. If they can accept their own defeat in the house, they should give her the win since she clearly outplayed them all. Sadly, this is not likely since the jury is full of over sized ego's who will be seeking revenge until the last minute. Britney will likely lose HOH this week so her only real shot is for herself or Lane to win veto. It's a fifty-fifty shot, but the odds might be slightly in their favor with Enzo's track record.