Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Very early review of Cop House (FOX)

First off, thank you to the dude that twitted me (for absolutely no reason) that Rachael Harris is married and out of my league anyway, it made me laugh. Let's talk about Cop House a new FOX comedy written by Adam Resnick, a former SNL writer. It's one of the shows that seem to be getting a good buzz and the all-star cast is probably helping. Rachael Harris, Tony Hale, Nick Kroll (from Cavemen, do you remember that one? I know some people who were part of green-lighting what will probably be remembered as one of the worst shows of the decade), Scott Caan, JoAnna Garcia (from the maybe-not-cancelled Privileged) and Curtiss Cook (who is going to be big soon).

Cop House is following a few police officers that have been suspended for random reasons like posing for Hustler or Stress Disorder and they now have to support their eccentric personalities into a rehabilitation center for useless cops.

I'm pretty sure about how Adam Resnick works : he has a few good jokes, two okay one-liners, a nice opener, and believes he can build something around it. Unfortunately, it's not how it works and with a build-up like this one, you most of the times end-up with story-lines going from weak to nonexistent.

Cop House is taking itself too seriously and is forgetting to be funny. It hasn't figured out if it wants to be a drama or a comedy, or both and while I was reading, all I could think about was if we would actually get see Rachael Harris posing for Hustler. You can't use a pilot as a trial, it's not the place to see what kind of humor you do best, or if you can make people cry and unfortunately, Resnick doesn't have a clue about his own writing.

As much as I like the opening, I don't believe in readiness, a character should be complex and elaborate, therefore, presenting ten of your characters in a thirty second scene shows immediate lack of composite (the rest of the pilot wasn't any better).

Both arcs from the pilot were absolutely uninteresting. The first one was about Tony loosing his mug and suspecting one of the guys for the disappearing and the second one was about making a choice between going to a sports game or a pistol competition. Seriously, how ridiculous did that sound? We should do the same thing into an Elementary school, it might actually work better (sending a memo to FOX, now).

All in all, I can't see this making a TV show, much less a good one and I can only hope FOX see passed the good casting before green-lighting this.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A not so early review of Glee (FOX)

As it's premiering sooner than most of the shows I'm usually reviewing, you've probably all heard about Glee, Nip Tuck's creator Ryan Murphy latest baby. When I first heard about this, I was disappointed that someone like Murphy was about to lose his time on a network TV show. Last Nip Tuck's seasons weren't any good but you can't deny the brilliance of the first, and in case you have seen Pretty/Handsome, a pilot he wrote for FX which leaked online last summer, you can't deny either the genius of the man (oh and if you are wondering, yes, Pretty Handsome never made it to TV because it shocked people).

Murphy is going after a very difficult universe, high school. Difficult because stereotypes are a part of high school therefore it's hard to find a concept that won't feel like deja-vu on the subject. Although Glee is the perfect example of how you can revitalize a genre that's been dried again and again. Saying the show is going to be cliche-free is a lie, but the show takes a look at what's inside the head of these teenagers. Glee has a strong concept, a story-line for a whole season, some compelling characters and trust me when I say there are fewer and fewer scripts that can claim to have these.

Will has been Glee's Club manager for several years and he has finally decided to take it to the top. Besides a few problems assembling a real team, the principal of the school wants to rent their auditorium. Will manages to obtain an extra two months with the Club when claiming he will be able to win the regionals. If he doesn't, the Glee Club is out but we all know that not going to happen, don't we?

Ryan Murphy has proved his excellence and versatility writing Glee and I can only be glad to say that this show will take an interesting look under the appearances, much like the very realistic Freaks and Geeks did ten years ago. It does try too hard to be funny at some point but the well handled drama widely make up for it.

But it's not all there is to Glee, just in case you haven't heard, half Broadway joined the show as a regular (see the amazing Lea Michele) or as a guest star (see the talented Kristin Chenoweth) and that's just another sign that Glee is going to knock your socks off. Funny thing by the way, Jane Lynch's character doesn't appear anywhere in my draft, meaning her role has been added because she was available, and not because it belonged there, but let's not be a troll before it's clearly shown her character is unsubtle (oh wait, a trailer begs to differ).

All in all, with its post American Idol slot, its great writing, and its great cast, Glee has everything to work and as long as people stop thinking it's kinda like High School Musical, it will definitely be on next's season line-up.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Television at its best

The last few weeks, I've been seeing more and more critics going after the Hollywood creative minds supposedly not being able to innovate enough for them.

As I do have the opportunity to talk with writers, their agents and read spec scripts like few people do in the country, I feel like I should make this clear. Creative minds are innovating more than ever, you are just not ready for it. I'm not going to debate about this, facts are here: Surviving Suburbia, the dumbest show of the new season is settling for over ten million viewers, According to Jim is in its fourth season, Friday Night Lights barely made it last season, and the list goes on.

Next season, more than any other years, all those scripts looked very similar, not because writers met up and decided they should all write about the same thing, but because it is common knowledge that everyone would rather watch some soon to be ten years old TV shows like Desperate Housewives or Two And A Half Men rather than to give a try to Chuck or even Dollhouse.

Do you think they are having fun getting cancelled after 10 episodes? Joss Whedon, Victor Fresco, Paul Feig, John Wells, Bryan Fuller, are some of the best writers out there that never or struggled to keep their show on air for more than ten episodes. Is it their fault? No. Is it the execs fault? No, well, yes, they shouldn't have overestimate America.

Maybe if there were fewer people watching idiotic shows like Surviving Suburbia (it makes me angry just to write it), Chuck ratings wouldn't look so bad. Stop the "Watch Chuck" campaign, do the "Stop Watching Bad TV" campaign, it'll work better.

Networks are done innovating, finding new talents; they now are working with people they know and ordering scripts about families having laughable problems. And you know what, you have no one to blame but yourselves.

PS: When I say you, I don't mean you, my readers, you guys are cool (as long as you didn't watch Surviving Suburbia.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Early review of Happiness Isn't Everything (CBS)

I finally got my hands on Happiness Isn't Everything which is the latest work of Arrested Development's creator, the brilliant Mitchell Hurwitz and it looks like this review is going to make a lot of people happy.

After Arrested Development got cancelled, I always wondered why Hurwitz didn't stick it to the 20th Century Fox and went to see if some people were actually believing in his work at other networks, but he chose instead to make Sit Down Shut Up, that happens to be not good. Needless to say I was disappointed by STSU, especially because I consider AD's writing as the best and I wasn't expecting any less from this new show. AD had such an amazing stringency to the details and a dense humor that I cried myself to sleep a few times knowing I wouldn't be watching more episodes. Moving on, this is not another Arrested Development tribute.

With Happiness Isn't Everything, Mitch Hurwitz is going back to basics with a very dysfunctional family, the Hamburgers (for real). Jason (played by Jason Biggs) is an over thinker that seems to be normal on the outside (comparison to Michael can be made), and his brother, Jacky, on the contrary doesn't hide his craziness, just like their father, a renowned surgeon, who acts like he's 25. And then comes their mum, divorced from the dad, Audrey, who wants the Hamburgers to be a family again.

Although this script wasn't the funniest I read this season, Arrested Development wasn't either and it still become one of the best comedies ever made. Hurwitz's comedy works a lot with non-verbal communication (like it's all there is) that can only be showed on screen. Don't get me wrong though, the incestuous jokes I missed so much are back, just like the dark cultural references, even a few running jokes are already set by the end of the pilot.

The different arcs of the pilot were absorbing and twisted just like the characters that managed to be so eccentric and selfish though completely endearing (well, like in Arrested Development).

In case you didn't notice this will be on CBS and I'm still not sure whether it's a good or a bad thing. One thing is sure, for a comedy, it doesn't get any better than CBS, if it's there, they will find the audience meaning you won't have to fight to keep the show on air every goddamn year but on the other hand, the network has a way of transforming original ideas into mainstreamed products (see Harper's Island) that worries me.

I did compare it a lot to Arrested Development, even though it might be a little early, but as far as I'm concerned, I think this show has the potential to be the next AD, and I couldn't care less if there are a few similarities between the two as long as I can watch more of that magic touch Hurwitz has.

The pilot shot last week in LA, CBS has already ordered six additional scripts and it's getting a nice buzz meaning unless something goes terribly wrong, it'll be on the schedule next season.

Early review of Sons of Tucson (FOX)

Sons of Tucson is one of next year original projects and I wanted it to be good, even more when I heard Tyler Labine (from Reaper) was joining the cast as a lead. It's not that I'm a huge fan of him, but he does have a lot of potential.

The father of the brothers Gundersons, a wealthy big shot banker recently got arrested for fraud leaving his three kids by themselves. One thing is sure, they are not going to foster care and that's why they are going to need help from an adult, one that doesn't have anything better to do than to pretend to be their father. That "adult" is Ron, a low-life salesman/hustler with no future that will later lose his job, home and girlfriend in the same day.

With a promising concept like this one, I was expecting a lot, probably because I believe it would be easy creating good and funny storylines around it. And yet, I was already feeling redundancy in the second part of the pilot. A thirty year old constantly being outsmarted, no matter how dumb he is, by a twelve year old, no matter how smart he is, will get old faster than I thought.

I just don't see Tyler Labine playing a dad just yet and this is just one of the things that doesn't feel right. It's a comedy therefore I don't mind letting go a few extravagances, but Sons of Tucson has too much of them to be compelling enough on the long-term.

Still, it was a rather funny script and I think it will work better on screen as the writing wasn't fantastic and some good camera work could make that script funnier than it is.

All in all, Sons of Tucson is the perfect example that a good concept with a few goofs and amusing one liners doesn't make a great show, well, it does sometimes, Sons of Tucson isn't there just yet.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Early Review of 100 Questions For Charlotte Payne (NBC)

Edit : After watching the upfront's preview , I'm going to clarify a few points, the trailer indicates that the script has been rewritten a lot, not that it's a surprise, but they've apparently took off some good parts and replaced them with cliche ones. I'm highly dissapointed by NBC as this script was full of potential but they, instead, decided to turn it in some mainstream-CBS-type bullshit (and it's miscasted, but that's another problem).

Just after I struggled for a while trying to find out who were the people behind 100 Questions for Charlotte Payne (an actor and some writers from Psych), I started reading, confident that this would be good and as it turned out, it is.

Look, it's Sophie Winkleman,
she'll play Charlotte.

Charlotte Payne is a party planner working in her own company with her two girl friends, Jill (the sexaholic) and Leslie (the workaholic) and her two boy friends, Mike (the lack of confidence guy) and Wayne (the cut off spoiled adult kid guy). A bit stereotyped, it's hard to deny, but it sounds like they are sticking together for more interesting reasons : commitment issues and a Peter Pan syndrome (and because they are friends, but let's not get too obvious).

The concept is a bit doll, with a few vibes from How I Met Your Mother. Each episode starts off into the "Soulmates.com" agency which, you can guess, is there to find your better half. The Soulmates agent asks Charlotte a list of questions in order to find her the perfect mate. She is then going to tell a story to answer a question and bam, you got a Charlotte Payne's episode. Well, it doesn't sound so good on paper but the pilot was actually really funny.

The pilot's question is "Would you consider yourself an honest person?", and Charlotte does a pretty good job answering it. For some unknown reason, the lucky girl has been proposed to nine times and the whole point of the episode is to discover why .

And here comes why Charlotte Payne is better than Ted Mosby. They dropped all of that ethical part that's starting to seriously get on my nerves in How I Met Your Mother . As someone cool said, comedy is there to let your mind speak, to express all of the horrible feelings that you can't say in your day to day life and if you have to take them back at the end of the day, it's just not worth saying them.

These not so nice people are still very endearing (a bit like the Bluths although the comparison might a bit too flattering) and the storyline is going to be hard to drain out. All in all, Charlotte Payne is a promising sitcom with some rather provoking characters that seems to be getting some positive attention over at NBC and will probably make it next season.

An early look at Parenthood (NBC)

And here is another one that seems to be getting its buzz essentially from its cast, I'm talking about Parenthood. Here's a little story : on my home desk, I have a pile of about twenty scripts that I'm never going to read (and probably see), because the headline would go like this: "Family tries to deal with problems". Although some of them might get lucky and get made because execs only have "family with problems" in mind this time of year, I'm tired of them, I have a sh*t ton of them and they all look the same. Therefore, I was getting ready to trash this thing hard 20 pages in.

Because the story was too dense, and because I still didn't know who was who and this most of the times means that I couldn't care less about all these characters, I didn't really understand why NBC had put so much faith in it. The writing was above average, just like the dialogues, but the characters and the storylines were weak. When I was half way through, I was asking myself if someone had played a prank on me and replaced Parenthood with the first draft of the Brothers and Sisters script. But one arc and its characters stroke me as interesting, and I even managed to finish this off.

There sure are a lot of problems, as I said before, it is way too dense, the characters are just too conventional (like every next season's TV show), and I had a deja-vu feeling all the way through
the script, but the pilot ends up on a rather good opening to the rest of the season (no, the patriarch doesn't die) and uncovers that Parenthood isn't really what it appears to be. The only problem is, I doubt people will make it to the end of the pilot. And it is sad because the show might have some truly compelling arcs to offer and a witty original writing.

Parenthood can make a good show but the pilot needs a lot of work, there is not just yet that spark that made me want to know more about this family that wants to be so special, different but really isn't so much.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Early review of The Wonderful Maladys (HBO)

After Mischa Barton, it's SMG's time to make her comeback and I am going to start right away with the punchline, this is the best thing I read in a long time.

The Maladys are a fucked-up family that lost everything before the game had even started when both their parents died as they were young, leaving them with nothing. Alice, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar found refuge into alcohol and aggressiveness. Mary, played by Molly Parker from Swingtown, found refuge into her work as a therapist even though not being able to follow advices she gives to her clients. The last one, Neil found refuge into, well, weirdness.

I've always been a fan of dramedy, even the not so good ones (I won't tattle) and it's why I was delighted by The Wondeful Maladys script. Some scenes (see at the end), literally made me laugh out loud, and it wasn't the dumb funny that I sometimes laugh at, it was the smart and edgy funny that you can't find these days on TV (you can look, you won't find). The thing that had me worried was how they were going to deal with the death thing and I was once again really surprised at how good they were. Some scenes simply were heart-breaking, and the way it made move the storyline was amazing. I just wish everyone could read how brilliant this is and shed at a tear at the Maladys.

It was also amazing to discover the characters, especially Alice (SMG), her obvious issues and her self-hate that you really only discover a few pages before the end in a sex scene (SMG fans sure aren't going to miss it) that was terribly hard to read and yet so fantastic. Mary, the oldest sister and the only one that looks a bit sane (she only looks that way) is married to a not so nice person and confronted to dilemmas such as : "if my husband asked me to buy me lesbian porn but without any black girls, does that make him racist ? ". Next comes Neil, that tells during a family therapy session one of the dirtiest story ever told also sounds fascinating, but the pilot doesn't center much on his story. When all your characters are screw-ups, it becomes too easy to be shallow but TWM focuses on what made them who they are, their personalities, their deepest fears and much more and when you think about it, that's what's interesting about them.

I still don't really know what The Wonderful Maladys is about, maybe about making their lives better, but honestly, I couldn't care less about what that show is about because it's still one of the best writing I've read in years and I'm going to watch it anyway.

Cast includes Nate Corddry as Neil Malady, Sarah Michelle Gellar as Alice Malady, Zak Orth as Charles (Mary's husband), Molly Parker as Mary Malady, Adam Scott as Doug (Alice's ex).

I'm not really allowed to do that, but here is a dialogue from the pilot.

I’m so nervous. I’m miserable at small talk.

It’s a book party. Try to find something
negative to say about television. Or the
internet. Or just look forlorn and keep
asking, ”What happened to Woody Allen?”

The answer is always “the Republicans”. No
matter anyone says on any subject, blame the
Republicans. I’m serious. Totally works. Bad
weather? Global warming. The Republicans.
Movies suck? The studios went corporate.
Republicans. Toe blister? It’s the crappy
Chinese shoe factories. Thanks to the...?


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Early review of Flash Forward (ABC)

I finally found the time to read Flash Forward, a rather big project as ABC is planning to pair it up with Lost. One thing is certain, it's not going to be easy living up to the hype.

First off, the writers planned to sell this to HBO who said that Flash Forward would work better on a network and it's when ABC bought it. The F-Word is all over the place and there are a few sex scenes that will need to be cut, but if it's all ABC does, it might work.

I'm not so fond of Flash Forward, maybe I was expecting too much from the plot I read on ABC's press release a while back, I mean, a global black out of two minutes and seventeen seconds where everyone see a few months into their futures, with a headline like this one, potential story-lines are countless.

On the other hands, the characters failed to interest me, an AA FBI dad married to a nurse with a kid whose babysitter has sex with her boyfriend while on the job, well, thanks but no thanks. Let's just say I hoped for a bit more. And it's sad to say but that's all there is to this project. After the black out, everything goes on, except the FBI AA dad has seen he was investigating something in its future and decides to work on it before it happens (hello life on mars). As for the rest, there is a clear lack of storyline. So yes sure, I will be back for episode, not because of the characters, but thanks to this blackout which is by far the most fascinating thing of this pilot.

HBO might actually not have refused to produce Flash Forward because it was too expensive, but maybe because it wasn't so good after all. Sure, it won't be bad, but I wouldn't call it the next Lost just yet. It obviously needs some work before the comparison can even be made, and because waste such a brilliant concept (and seven million dollars) would be a crime.

Early review of Rubicon AKA Jason Horwitch Project for AMC

When I heard that AMC had found a new script and that they were ordering a pilot, I knew I needed to read it, then I saw the plot of what is now called Rubicon and realized that, I needed to read it fast.

The fact is, all I can think about is the day that I will get the second episode's script, yes, it's that good.

Will Travers works at a National Think Tank called the American Insitute Policy. Needless to say he's smart, very smart. New York Times' crosswords takes him about thirty seconds of his day. Will loves crosswords and he's going to find something weird about them, a pattern. The weird kinda thing that interests his bosses. His direct superior Haddas, a superstitious good friend of him is going to report this pattern and take credit for it. Problem is, the train he was on the next morning has an accident and Haddas is not going to make it. Something doesn't look right to Will and from that point, he is going to encounters more and more things that accident was about making disappear his friend.

Rubicon moves fast, from the opening teaser to the ending teaser, I wasn't bored for a second, and it took me abut fifteen seconds to get hook by the story, and with a plot like this one, I wasn't really surprised. The eccentric geniuses from the American Institue Policy all sound challenging and I can't wait to know more about their pasts, see what made them who they are. The development of the intrigue is very well put in place and his going to give work to the Lost fans.

I was instantly caught into the dark universe of Rubicon and its smart moves to a final teaser that gives us a first look at that secret society who can pull strings all around the world that might just be the best pilot ending of the last decade.

However, Rubicon is going to be hard to pull and challenging on so many levels. First for actors since playing a genius clearly isn't an easy gig, then because the conspiracy/mystery thing can be tricky, finding a balance between questions and answers (ask Lindelof) is one of the thing that comes to my mind, and because you can lose track of what you're doing even without noticing it. But this is AMC we are talking about, after Mad Men and Breaking Bad, I believe we should cut them some slack because if there is one channel that can pull this off, it's AMC.

Very early review of The Beautiful Life

I received a few weeks ago The Beautiful Life but didn't really notice it until I heard this would mark Mischa Barton come back on tv. Not that I care or anything, but that just makes this show one of the most anticipated for the next season, yes, really.

Top models living together in New York, it does sound really cliche and while I was waiting for another Vampire Diaries monstrosity, it turns out The Beautiful Life has a lot to offer.

Chris is the small town genuinely nice guy who, while travelling to New York will catch the eye of Simon, a gay talent scout (how original), that offers to meet him at the agency where he will then meet Raina. They both click right away, and the development of their relation interests quickly thanks to a great writing that makes you wonder how Raina managed to stay so down to earth and naive in such a competitive world.

The characters are ordinary as I expected but it's quickly proven that they are not so one note and cliche as you would think. Especially the naive Raina who just had her big break played by Sara Paxton. For the rest, it's a CW pilot therefore I was expecting the show to focus on the beautiful and the pleasant part of the fashion world but The Beautiful Life, au contraire, focuses wisely on the dark part of modelling. Addictions to all sorts of things, bulimia and much more are parts of these teenagers' life. There are some interesting but hard subjects to talk about, first because it's easy to become too light on subjects that shouldn't be treated so and then because the lack of knowledge is obvious (but I guess it's kinda too early to talk).

I'm also glad a good spec script can make it these days, especially considering the fact that most of the next season's TV shows are coming from writers with a huge background. I mean, Adam Giaudrone only has two credits at IMDB (South Beach and Swingtown) and the network might actually get something good out of this.

Finally, this pilot is well done, and if I manage not to comeback for week two next season, it will be the CW's fault for destroying a script who could be above everything the network has done these last years.

The Beautiful Life will start if it gets pick up next season on the CW.