Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fall TV Scorecard: Week 3.5*

*Since 666 Park Avenue was the only new show to premiere last week, we'll also take a quick look at returning favorites that premiered during week 2.

666 Park Avenue (ABC)

The seemingly perfect love child of two recently resurgent TV genres, 666 blends the soft-spooky "horror" (a loosely-defined genre when it comes to television) of hits like American Horror Story, Walking Dead and Grimm with the primetime soap success of fellow ABC sister-show "Revenge."
While it has neither the delicious fun of Revenge nor the genuine thrills of Walking Dead, 666 manages to pull of a nice cocktail of sexy and scary, infused with the small screen chops of Lost's Terry O-Quinn and a supporting cast of easy-on-the-eyes recurring characters.

The show focuses on young couple in the big city Jane Van Neen (worst name ever) and Henry, who take over manager duties for luxurious UES apartment complex The Drake after the post's former occupant runs out the clock on a deal with the devil and is sucked into a sort of hellish wormhole in The Drake's front door. While it's never stated explicitly, we understand quickly that O'Quinn is the devil, or some sort of demonic middle man, who strikes deals for peoples souls in exchange for power, fame, beauty and riches.

What the devil wants with our young lovers is unclear, but its certain that something is afoot as O'Quinn casts his sidelong glances and lusting grins while the more-clearvoyant Jane beings receiving visions of warning, seemingly from the building itself.

I don't think I'd go as far as some critics who have called the show "Devilishly-good fun" but 666 is better than its ratings would suggest. It is extremely well-produced and has a certain je nai se quois that makes for a great 44 minutes. It also dances perfectly on the line of just enough naughty and nice to entice without incurring the wrath of one million moms for its Disney-owned timeslot.

Grade: B+
Class: Subscribe

30 Rock (NBC)

Season 6 of 30 Rock -- despite being a brilliant masterpiece too good for broadcast television audiences -- had it's ups and downs. The plotlines began to feel strained and you could not only see but smell the cold fingers of death inching around the show's creative throat.

And so we find ourselves in yet another NBC farewell season and if the season opener is any indication, it could be the best 30 Rock we've seen since the powerhouse seasons 2 and 3. The premiere fires on all barrels, fast-forwarding us up to speed since the summer hiatus while delivering some of the best laughs we've had in a while and also some of the most pointed NBC-jabs we've seen. (Jack has decided to intentionally tank the network. "How long has this been going on?" Liz asks. "7, 8 years?" "6 Weeks" he replies. Rim shot. Score).

Like the best things in life, I'll be sad when 30 Rock is gone but I'll love watching it walk away.

Grade: A
Class: If you haven't subscribed yet, slap self in face 10 times and rectify the situation immediately.

Castle (ABC)

When we last saw our dynamic duo, Castle and Beckett were in the throes of passion, having finally confessed their mutual affection.

When we see them in the premiere, they're STILL in the throes of passion, the morning after Becket turned in her gun and badge and walked (rain-soaked, natch) into Castle's arms.

Sure, there's an assassin out to get Becket but that's end-of-season drama, not beginning-of-season shenanigans, so the writers waste no time dispelling the shadows of seasons past to make room for a few weeks of casual romanticism.

As an episode, not the best, but it does get points for finally giving us what we've waited years for (on two different, spoilerific fronts) and not pulling some "Gotcha!" nonsense like an episode of House, Bones or -- yes -- moonlighting. Casket's love is here to stay and a new Big Bad (perhaps the Biggest Bad?) should give us plenty to do come May sweeps.

Grade: B
Class: Subscribe

How I Met Your Mother (CBS)

For being one of my favorite shows on TV, HIMYM sure seems to be running on fumes. The lengths to which the writers will go to NOT introduce the mother have left frustrating for exhausting territory and what used to be clever non-linear plotlines have now digressed into a quagmire of Inception-level complexity where events unfold in flashbacks, flashforwards and flash-sidewayses all simultanesouly.
Seriously guys, just give us the darn mother and let Barney and Robin get married already.

That said, HIMYM is still comedy gold and the lone proof that Multi-cam comedy doesn't have to be poison. This season is potentially the series' last, so the expected onslaught of revelations and go-for-broke gimmickry should be a hoot to watch.

Grade: B-
Class: Keep and Eye On

New Girl (Fox)

Oh Schmidt, how I've missed you.
2011's best new comedy (remember when I hated it? Funny how things can change) came back in roaring fashion, giving us the cockneyed adventures of Gladys Night and The Pips (there were 3 Pips, right?) we craved over the summer hiatus.

There's some plotline about Jess getting fired (who cares) which pales in comparison to the big news of Schmidt having his penis cast removed and holding a re-branding party. The theme is "Danger" and the scene where Schmidt slaps his putrid cast on the kitchen table had me laughing out loud and dry-heaving at the same time. Max Greenfield is a God of physical comedy and all I can say is "Thank you, more please."

Grade: B+
Class: Subscribe

Modern Family

I hate to say it but "TV's Best Comedy" is starting to feel a little rote. The show stopped being groundbreaking a long time ago and has since become thoroughly mired in a pattern of "Introduce conflicts A, B and C; resolve conflicts A, B and C; Grouphug for emotional finish".

The premiere ties up the loose ends from the finale with a few chuckles (Claire is obsessed about how Gloria's pregnancy will affect her body) before sweeping through the worlds most awkward fast forward (in the form of a 360-degree shot of Jay and Gloria hugging), bringing us to the "present" where Gloria is showing, Cam and Mitchell are at peace over not getting a baby and Phil has grown a beard (Ty Burrell continues to be pure. unbottled. genius).

It's still great and its unfair to even compare MF to most TV sitcoms but still the bigger you are the harder you fall and I need a little more to keep my appetite wet.

Grade: B-
Class: Subscribe-minus

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