Thursday, November 7, 2013

TV Matchups: What To Watch 2013

Stockers, it's that time of the year again, in which we pit our new television shows against each other in head-to-head contests based on arbitrary groupings and score them based on the American Football point system (why? Because it's fun).

'Super'-dramas: Bananas and Cheese division

SHIELD premiered to much fanfare and aplomb, only to fall flat on the face of its own efforts to be mass-appeal. You know what the average TV viewer doesn't like? Shows with complicated mythologies that exist in a litany of off-screen comic book source material. You know what the average comic book fan doesn't like? Shows that you can safely watch in the company of a group of kindergarten students. And you know what everybody doesn't like? Milquetoast protagonists and a will-they-won't-they couple who have the chemistry of lukewarm tap water.

Somewhere at the core of SHIELD is an amazing television show, and while the series has shown some improvement in recent weeks it has a long way to go if it wants to step out of its glossy Disney PR-machine packaging.

On the other hand, Sleepy Hollow is a gonzo smash that almost seems like the writers are constantly attempting to one-up what they can get away with. It's got a charming fish-out-of-water star with a British accent (swoon bait) hunted by various baddies that go bump in the night and, most importantly, the showrunners aren't afraid to get a little blood on their hands, employing some impressively cinematic gore for a one-hour drama on Fox's primetime lineup. It's positively insane, and I love it.

Winner: After a slow start that saw SHIELD pull ahead in the first half, Sleepy Hollow rallies to a 10-point victory.

The comeback kids

I'm told that Robin Williams is a bonafide TV comedy actor, having starred in an ABC series that went off the air before I was born. Since then, Williams' particular brand of humor has grown increasingly one-note, with "comedy" amounting to little more than Robin muttering nearly-incoherent nonsense before making some sort of shrill exclamation or launching into an impression to bring the joke home. All of that also applies to The Crazy Ones, which would actually be a better show if RW's character was killed off entirely, allowing the impressive but under-utilized B-Cast to transition into an ensemble comedy.

But where Williams is an acquired taste, Michael J. Fox is peanut butter and chocolate in the sense that if you don't like him you clearly have no soul. Unfortunately for his eponymous NBC comedy, the writers have essentially gone "all-in" on MJF's likeability, forgetting to invest in things like plot, stakes or purpose. It still kind of works, though, because Marty McFly really is that endearing.

Winner: The Michael J. Fox show wins 20-3 after Crazy Ones recovers a late fourth-quarter fumble, runs it to the 5-yard-line and is forced to settle for a field goal.

Family Feud

Family comedies are one of the constants of broadcast television – like police procedurals, medical dramas and 'Friends'-type sitcoms – so it's no surprise that so many of this year's debuts revolve around the home.

Between The Millers and The Goldbergs, only the blast-from-the-past Goldbergs could even hold a candle to reigning champion Modern Family, and even then just barely. The most amusing part about the show is the 80s references that distract from the cast – who are fine as individuals but don't quite sparkle as an ensemble – and Reno 911s Wendi McLendon-Covey as overbearing matriarch Beverly.

Oh and if you're wondering where The Millers are, they likely got lost in an unending sequence of flatulence jokes.

Winner: The Goldbergs score two touchdowns early on before The Millers are forced to forfeit the game out of exhaustion. 

The sexier side of violent crime

"Hey!" says one of the people behind CBS' Hostages "Let's make a show about a surgeon forced to kill the president because her family is kidnapped! We'll call it...'Hostages'."

"Yeah, and we can make each member of her family a bundle of clich├ęd archetypes with soap-opera-esque challenges to deal with, like a secret affair or a drug debt!"

"Boom! This is gold. We'll have their captor be a morally ambiguous government agent with an adorable daughter and a wife in a coma."

"Dyn-o-mite! Wait, what is this show about again?"

"I don't remember. ROLL CAMERA!"


"Hey!" says one of the people behind NBC's The Blacklist. "Remember how good Hannibal is, even though no one is really watching it? What if we did that same show, only made it lighter and more approachable, with a super-charismatic protagonist and a convoluted mystery backstory that we can tease the audience with for years on end?"

"Yeah! Like Fringe meets Lost meets 24 meets one of those CW shows with all the pretty people!"

"Love it! Do you think James Spader is available? We could have him wear a fedora."


Winner: While everyone is watching the cheerleaders, the Blacklist sneaks up and puts 100 points on the scoreboard, then buys everyone drinks.

Dads vs. Mom

One of these shows is a live-action comedy by Family Guy creator Seth McFarland about two obnoxious fathers who move in with their bonehead sons. The other is essentially Generational Poverty: The Series! in which a woman tries to reconnect with her mother and pregnant teenage daughter while also working to curb her alcoholism.

Which is which? Who cares, they're both terrible.

Loser: America

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