Saturday, October 5, 2013

Fall TV Scorecard: Week 3

Betrayal (ABC)

Another year, another prime-time soap on ABC. With Revenge losing much of its luster last season and 666 Park Avenue failing to take up residency, the mouse house is clearly hoping Betrayal can pick up some of the slack left by the once-titan Desperate Housewives. I can't speak to its odds of success, since this is a show that clearly falls outside of my genre as a target audience member. But what I can say is that Betrayal is 44 minutes of heavy-handed nonsense that takes itself far too seriously to be enjoyable.

Betrayal opens with a woman being being rushed into an ambulance after having been shot in the shoulder. We then jump backwards 6 months to a gallery open where the woman, Sarah, has a chance encounter with Jack, charming man in a peacoat. Despite being married to their respective spouses, the two become fixated on one another, and we know that not because of any genuine emotional connection between the characters but because they display the appropriate side-glances and fluttered breath of an episode of General Hospital.

With the exception of James Cromwell as Jack's take-no-prisoners employer, Betrayal is filled with a cast of unknown, unmemorable actors who chew their lines like it's their first hot meal in months. The pre-show disclaimer of adult material might preserve a few looky-loos from a curious audience, but the story is dead on arrival.

Grade: D+
Class: Kill and Bury

We Are Men (CBS)

The pilot of CBS' new venture into single-camera comedy is a bit of a mixed bag. The pilot begins with a blatant rip-off of Happy Endings, with our main protagonist/narrator getting left at the alter after a man barges in during the "speak now" portion of the ceremony. From there, the show launches into an acceptably pleasant montage establishing the main characters and the stakes -- our "hero" Carter moves into temporary housing where he bros out with Kal Penn's Gil, Jerry O'Connell's Stuart and Tony Shalhoub's Frank.

Watching this whole thing develop, I found myself wondering why the critics had been so critical. Sure it was nothing great, but was it really that bad? The cast was great, it's about time Christopher Nicholas Smith had a starring vehicle, even the supporting bench contained Newsradio's Dave Foley. What was the problem?

But then, the voice-over narration gave way to dialogue, and it was immediately apparent that We Are Men is little more than re-heated machismo jokes uttered by paper-thin characters. O'Connell takes his shirt off, Shalhoub chases young Asian girls, Penn is a nerd and after 22 minutes of beer, basketball and juvenile hijinks the episode ends, promising more of the same and little else.

Somewhere in We Are Men is the ingredients for a fun, irreverent comedy. Here's hoping it finds itself.

Grade: C+

Class: Keep and Eye On (minus)

Super Fun Night (ABC)

Rebel Wilson, the scene-stealing "Fat Amy" from last year's Pitch Perfect, is funny. Super Fun Night, on the other hand, is not. At all.

The premiere episode reads like a laundry list of things to NOT do with Rebel Wilson as your star. For example: don't make her mask her native Australian accent. Don't force her larger-than-life personality into a milquetoast character defined by a lack of self-confidence. Don't put her front and center without a straight-man counterpart to carry the comedic weight (a la Don't Trust the B**** in Apt 23) and whatever you do, don't air the second episode as the premiere in place of the pilot, forcing your audience to put the plot pieces together without the help of a set-up. (It took 12 minutes to establish the setting as New York City, and I'm still not sure if I've heard every character's name. This decision was reportedly made because the pilot was even worse, which is foreboding.)

Apparently, the show is about Kimmie (Wilson), who gets promoted at the law firm she works at and, in some related bit of self-realization, decides she's had enough of staying in every weekend and decides with her two roommates to get out and experience life more. I gather this will involve some weekly excursion to a new location/activity (a piano kareoke bar in the premiere episode), peppered throughout with romantic sub-plots and other sit-com hijinks.

Grade: C-
Class: Kill and Bury

Blair Underwood is Robert Ironside, a wheelchair-bound NYC homicide detective who doesn't play by the book, does whatever it takes, sees past the evidence and a whole host of other crime procedural cliches. He also coaches hockey, because that makes slightly more sense than a paraplegic being a Yoga instructor.

The pilot episode sees Ironside and his team investigating a suicide that may or may not be a murder. It is every episode of Law and Order/CSI/Criminal Minds you've ever seen, a formulaic romp full of melodramatic glances and stilted dialogue and devoid of anything that resembles wit or ingenuity. There's a market for this type of thing, but I'm definitely not in it.

Ironside lives or dies on its central gimmick and judging by the ratings numbers (it posted the worst Fall drama debut in NBC's entire history, an honor previously held by the D.O.A. Playboy Club) it likely isn't long for this world.

Grade: D
Class: Kill and Bury

Welcome to the Family (NBC)

Junior is a straight-A student and valedictorian headed to Stanford after he graduates high school. Molly is his blonde mall rat girlfriend, who is barely scraping by in her studies with the goal of attending Arizona State, the number one party school in the country.

But when Molly realizes that she's pregnant on graduation day, the two kids decide to become extremely ill-advised young parents and their respective families - who of course don't get along – are thrown together in the process.
Junior and Molly are the weak links in the chain. Their parents, particularly Glee's Mike O'Malley, put in some amusing barbs as the dissapointed-but-staying-positive role models. The show is framed with a somewhat awkward racial subtext – Junior's parents are Latino, Molly's parents are very not Latino – that hopefully won't be the focus of future humor.

Grade: B-
Class: Keep an Eye On

Sean Saves the World

It's odd that it took so long for Sean Hayes to come back to television in a starring role. Will and Grace – which, let's be honest, belonged to Jack and Karen – was a gargantuan, culture-shaping behemoth that ushered in the modern era of the gay rights movement – with an assist from Ellen, let's not forget – and did gangbusters business for NBC during the Must-See TV era.

And so here we are with Sean Saves the World, and while I would like to see Hayes in something a little better, I'm glad he's not in something worse. Hayes stars as the titular Sean, who is thrust into single parenthood after the mother of his teenage daughter moves to a new city leaving their child in his care. If the show proves successful, expect a bombshell casting announcement when said mother inevitably returns.

Besides parenthood, Sean is also dealing with a new curmudgeonly boss – Renoo 911's Thomas Lennon – with the help of his co-workers, Megan Hilty of Smash and Ben and Kate's Echo Kellum, a very funny guy who I'm glad to see has found a new job since B&K was tragically cut short.

It's always hard for me to believe we still live in a world with laugh tracks but for the most part SSTW keeps its head above water – except for one recurring gag where Sean strikes a cowboy pose that landed flat every time.

Grade: B
Class: Keep an Eye On

The Millers (CBS)

There is a lot of exceptional talent filling the cast rolls of CBS's The Millers. You have Arrested Development's Will Arnett as Jack, a recently-divorced tv journalist. His sister and brother-in-law are played by the uber-adorable Jayma Mays of Glee and New Girl's Nelson Franklin. And his parents, who are inspired to split up after learning of Jack's collapsed marriage, are played by Beau Bridges and Justified's Margo Martindale.

Unfortunately, the combined show does not live up to the sum of its parts. It's basically the less-offensive version of Fox's Dads, relying on the imbecility of two adult characters and the frustration of their hip children as the one and only comedic well to draw from. There's also five minutes of flatulence humor, because who doesn't love that?

Every single person on this show deserves better.

Grade: C+
Class: Kill and Bury

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