“Valor” is young, pretty, and empty of content.

Valor” is the CW network’s entry into the crowded military drama genre. Both NBC and CBS also have a new military dramas this year that I’ve already reviewed here. This one centers around a female Army helicopter pilot. It’s definitely geared towards the 20-something audience that is the typical CW network demographic. It’s populated with lots of attractive young actors you never heard of. No grizzled veterans to be found.

Unfortunately it is not much of the way of interesting characters or plot either. Normally I would tell you about who is in the show, a bit about the characters, the bit about the plot. This is so generic cliché that it isn’t worth my effort to describe it to you.

Unless you are greatly inspired by the story of a military woman trying to make her way in a man’s world there’s nothing much to see here. The action is not as interesting as NBC’s new show “The Brave” and the character back stories are not as interesting and CBS’s new show “SEAL Team”. If you want a good military show, go watch “Top Gun” for the 10th time or try one of the other new military shows we just mentioned.

Obviously this gets my rating of “skip it”.

“9JKL” Not as Lovable as Raymond

After spending eight seasons playing Dr. Hank Lawson on Royal Pains, Mark Feuerstein got away from comedy and played the bad guy on the reboot season of Prison Break. Now he’s back to comedy in his new half-hour single camera sitcom “9JKL” on CBS.

In this show he plays Josh, an actor who had his TV series “Blind Cop” canceled and he lost everything in a nasty divorce. So he moved to New York into the apartment building where he grew up. He lives in apartment 9K next to his overbearing parents in 9J and his brother and sister-in-law and their baby in 9L.

His smothering overbearing mother is played by Linda Lavin and his goofy somewhat senile father is played by Elliott Gould. I really like both of them in these parts.

The question I have is can they really make a show out of the one joke that this guy has these overbearing parents and a nosy brother who live too close to him? In some respects that was the major plot point of “Everybody Loves Raymond”. But that wasn’t the entire story. Raymond was married with kids and although his parents were the major source of conflict and therefore source of comedy, it just wasn’t the whole story. If the first episode of 9JKL is any indication, it doesn’t go much deeper than that.

There are other plot lines as well. Josh is trying to figure out how to start dating after his divorce. The second episode is all about his attempts to have a one night stand because he apparently has never had one before. He dated his high school sweetheart, college sweetheart, a series of six-month relationships followed by the woman he married and then divorced. Of course he fails when his mother makes the one night stand girl her new best friend. The other subplot of episode 2 is that his father bought too many bananas. Yawn.

The show has a very annoying and overbearing fake laugh track. It is single camera edited rather than filmed in front of an audience. Even if it did have an audience, it would still need the laugh track because it isn’t really that funny.

As I said earlier I really like Lavin and Gould and was a big fan of Feuerstein from Royal Pains but I think two episodes was plenty enough for me to get this rating of “Skip It”.

“Me, Myself and I” is a lighter, funnier “This Is Us” and better alternative to “Young Sheldon”

Me, Myself, and I” is a new single camera half-hour comedy created by producer Dan Kopelman who is most famous for his other coming-of-age comedy “Malcolm in the Middle”. When I first heard about this show it was obviously a show with a big gimmick and I wondered if that’s all it was. Fortunately it seems the gimmick works pretty well.

It’s a life story of Alex Riley as told through three different time periods in his life over a 50 year time span. The main character is portrayed by three different actors in each of those time periods. The young Alex is 14 years old in 1991 portrayed by Jack Dylan Grazer. He recently appeared in the Stephen King horror film “It” but has few other acting credits.

The show starts with him in the midst of three major turning points in his life. The young Alex is uprooted from his home in Chicago when his mom marries an airline pilot and they moved to LA. The most difficult part of this move for him is that he absolutely adores Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls but is suddenly transplanted into LA Lakers country. He is a bit of a nerd and loves inventing things.

His new stepbrother Justin takes him under his wing and tries to help him navigate life in a new school environment. He calls him “little brother” even though he’s only 30 some days older than him. In the opening episode Justin plays the role of wing man as Alex tries to hook up with one of the hottest girls in their class. Justin is played by Christopher Paul Richard who has previously appeared as one of Bobby Axelrod’s sons in the Showtime series “Billions”.

The adult Alex is 40 years old and takes place in present-day. He’s played by SNL veteran Bobby Moynihan. Here he is a struggling inventor whose company was worth about $2 million but now has fallen on hard times and is on the verge of bankruptcy. He’s recently divorced and living out of a friend’s garage. He’s trying to put his life back together and still be a good father to his nine-year-old daughter. At the end of the episode he finds out his ex-wife is moving out of town and taking the daughter with her. His business partner and sidekick Darrell is played by Jaleel White who you’ll remember from his iconic childhood role of Steve Urkel on Family Matters.

The older Alex is 65 years old in the year 2042. He’s portrayed by veteran comic actor John Larroquette. In the opening episode the turning point for this stage of his life is that he recently recovered from a heart attack and decided to retire as CEO of his now successful technology company Riley industries. He is searching for what he’s going to do with the rest of his life. We will avoid spoiling a minor plot twist near the end of the first episode that hints at where that part of the story is going.

The show is funny, has a lot of heart, and is well written and acted. At first I thought it was just a ripoff of the multi-time period approach to the hit NBC drama “This Is Us”. And while that may be true, they pull it off successfully. It is a little bit rushed to trying to get these three different stories moving along in just a half-hour comedy. The first episode was about 60% young Alex, 30% adult Alex, and 10% older Alex. We will have to see if subsequent episodes shift that balance so we get more of the other stories. Still if it remains mostly a coming-of-age story about a young Alex that would be okay. The writing does a pretty good job of tying the story together. Events in one of the time periods connects to the other time periods. Think of it as a sort of one person rather than three-person version of “This Is Us” with all of the heart and comedy and not any of the tearjerk aspects.

I also can’t help but make contrasts to the new series “Young Sheldon”. If you are looking for a coming-of-age story about a nerdy young kid and how his childhood influenced his adulthood then this is a much much better choice than Young Sheldon. In many ways this is the show that Young Sheldon could’ve been but isn’t. One of the reasons this show might succeed where Young Sheldon will not is that we can see the adult and the older versions of the character evolve along with the young version. This show is not saddled with 10+ seasons of history of its adult character with which it must somehow correlate and provide some sort of continuity.

For now I’m giving it a somewhat tentative raising of “I’m watching it”. I suggest you check it out and see if it resolves your disappointment in Young Sheldon.

A pair of new Marvel series are just okay. The jury is still out on The Gifted and Inhumans

Marvel comics is continuing to expand its TV offerings with 2 new series this season. On ABC we have “Marvel’s Inhumans” and on Fox we have “The Gifted”. This is in addition to 6 seasons worth of offerings on Netflix of various Marvel heroes with more to come and Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD already on ABC.

“Inhumans” is more closely related to Agents of SHIELD. In Agents we’ve already been introduced to these so-called inhuman characters. Basically if you have a particular genetic marker and come in contact with a substance called Terrigen it transforms you and gives you some sort of mutant ability. In Agents there was a plot line in which Terrigen was released into the world’s water supply and people are randomly popping up with these superpowers. Some use them for good others for evil.

In this series we have a group of humanoid alien inhumans living in a secret domed city on the moon called Attilan. They are led by a Royal family who all have mutant abilities. However some percentage of the population of this hidden lunar city do not develop these abilities when they go through Terrigenesis. Most notably Maximus the brother of King Black Bolt. Maximus is played by Iwan Rheon you will recognize as Ramsey Bolton from Game of Thrones. He stages a coup and the royal family have to flee to earth. It appears to be earth at approximately the same time. As Agents of SHIELD because people they encounter on earth seem to be aware of Inhumans.

The first two episodes were pre-released in IMAX theaters before the show aired. It got mixed to bad reviews. My initial reaction was that I was glad that I didn’t waste my money on IMAX tickets. In general it’s not a bad show but it’s nothing extra special. The cast of characters includes… King Black Bolt played by Anson Mount who you will recognize from the AMC Western series “Hell on Wheels”. His mutant ability is that if he speaks even the slightest sound he emanates a huge destructive shock wave. This ability resulted in the accidental death of his parents when he first developed it as a teenager. As a consequence he communicates through sign language. The writers of the show made up their own sign language because he is not from Earth and therefore would not use such systems as American Sign Language.

The Queen of Attilan is Medusa portrayed by Serinda Swan. She has floor length red hair that she can control like an appendage. In the opening episodes she is captured by Maximus and he shaves her head to render her powerless. There are a variety of other mutant characters insufficiently interesting to detail here.

The only other memorable character is a 2000 pound giant dog named Lockjaw that is capable of teleporting anywhere including to earth. He’s responsible for helping the royal family escape. The character is rendered in full CGI and claims to be the first regular TV character to be full CGI. Press interviews reveal he’s going to be a bit of comic relief but so far he’s been nothing but my proverbial plot driven technology.

It’s a little bit difficult to judge what the actual series is going to be like. The family of Royal Inhumans are going to be stranded on earth currently in Hawaii. They are being hunted by Royal guards loyal to the brother Maximus who has overthrown them. Somewhat like Star Trek: Discovery the first two hours are almost a prequel to the actual series itself.

Again there’s nothing really wrong with the show but it just isn’t anything very special.

The other offering based on Marvel characters is Fox’s “The Gifted”. It’s more closely related to the X-Men movies. It takes place at about the time of the recent X-Men film “Logan” or possibly slightly before. It is in an era where the X-Men have “disappeared” and the government is rounding up mutants… some because they are dangerous and others “for their own safety”.

The basic plot revolves around the Strucker family led by the father Reed Strucker played by former True Blood vampire Stephen Moyer. He is in Atlanta prosecutor who specializes in prosecuting mutant criminals however he seems to have some sympathy for them. He has a wife and two teenage children. Unbeknownst to him his daughter Lauren has had mutant abilities for a few years. She has to reveal them in order to save her brother Andy who accidentally discovers his own mutant abilities. He is a young teen who is being bullied at school. The bullies dragged him from the high school dance into the locker room to torment him. He unleashes shock waves that nearly tear down the school in a scene reminiscent from Stephen King’s Carrie.

As a result the family has to go on the run to avoid being arrested by federal “Sentinel Services” who have broad powers to detain any dangerous mutants. Reed turns to a mutant underground group that he has been pursuing in order to help his family escape. It looks like the story is going to be equally divided between the story of the family and the mutant underground.

This series has a very dark tone to it as the mutants are presumed to be dangerous terrorists whether they are or not. The themes of prejudice and racism are prominent in the series as they are in many of the X-Men stories.

Again unfortunately the opening episode focuses mostly on setting up the series and it’s a little bit difficult to see exactly where it’s going from here. Overall I would say that the action and special effects are more interesting than Inhumans and the characters certainly are more interesting. It is apparently going to focus mostly on the teenage kids which tells me the show is reaching for a young adult audience along the lines of Hunger Games, Divergent etc. It almost looks as though the show would be along the lines of something you would see on CW network.

In general I’m giving both series a “Could be watchable” rating with more emphasis on “The Gifted” than “Inhumans”. We will have to see where each of these go to see if they develop more compelling stories or interesting characters or if they are just another opportunity for Marvel to cash in on more of its B-list characters.

The Brave vs. SEAL Team — Take your pick

This season we have at least three new military themed dramas of which I’m aware. I’ve seen two of them and around neither of them are anything exceptional they are mildly interesting and unfortunately quite similar. The two we are talking about today is NBC’s “The Brave” and CBS’s “SEAL Team”. Yet to come is CW network’s “Valor” about U.S. Army helicopter pilotspremieres October 9.

NOTE: there are minor plot spoilers from the premier episodes.

“The Brave” opens with some text reminiscent of NBC’s other flagship dramas “Law & Order”. It says “The defense of the United States and its citizens relies increasingly on two groups… The intelligence analysts in Washington, who uncover and interpret threats. And the Special Forces operators tasked with eliminating.” That pretty much sums up what the show is about. We have a group of analysts back in Washington DC led by Patricia Campbell who is played by Anne Heche. And we have a small group of special forces operators led by Adam Dalton played by Mike Vogel. You might recognize in from the sci-fi series “Under the Dome” in which he played Dale Barbara. The rest of the cast is not anyone you would recognize.

The opening episode involves the rescue of a female American doctor who is kidnapped by terrorists while working in a relief mission overseas. Our heroes are tasked with rescuing her. Just as they are about to rescue her, they discovered she was kidnapped not as a hostage but to treat a wounded notorious terrorist leader. The dilemma then comes… Which is more important? Killing the bad guy or rescuing the princess… (Whoops excuse me the female doctor).

The show is strictly procedural with reasonable amounts of action and pretty good special effects. At least in the initial episode we didn’t spend a lot of time developing the characters, their personalities, or the back stories. We do know that Heche’s character recently lost a son in battle somewhere and there are whispered questions about whether or not she got to be back to work given her recent tragedy. That’s about the extent of the subplots. Presumably incoming episodes we will get to know more about the characters but this one seems to be strictly about the action. The trailer for the second episode is also a hostage rescue mission of some kind.

I will give the show for one thing. There was a minor plot twist that I thought was a plot hole. A terrorist which had been subdued suddenly escaped. I thought it was a plot gimmick to allow the escape just so there would be more danger and more action in the rest of the episode. As it turned out they let the terrorist escape as part of a plan to get the bad guy and rescue the doctor all right this same time. I guess I got cynical by so many shows with obvious plot holes that was a bit refreshing that what appeared to be a hole was actually a pretty clever twist.

“SEAL Team” is CBS’s entry into the field. It stars David Boreanaz who has just come off 12 seasons of playing FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth on “Bones”. I did not recognize any of the other cast from either TV shows or films.

In contrast to “The Brave” this one deals at least 50% with the back story and regular lives of the characters. Boreanaz’s character has an ex-wife and teenage girls. Part of the show has him in mandatory therapy to deal with the loss of one of his team members under his command. He continues to stay in contact with the widow of his dead teammate. Another member of the seal team has a pregnant wife at home. The show is going to be much more character driven. Whether or not those characters are interesting enough to keep you watching is yet to be determined. A lot of it seems a bit cliché so far. With its combination of action and family drama back stories this show is quite reminiscent of the 2006 military drama “The Unit“.

The plot for the opening episode is sadly extremely similar to the opening episode of “The Brave”. This story is slightly reversed in that they are sent to try to capture a high-value terrorist alive and along the way discover that a hostage is being held. Again the dilemma of which is more important… Rescuing a hostage or capturing the bad guy.

Without giving away the entire plot of those shows, the outcome of these extremely similar situations is quite different. I will stop short of calling SEAL Team resolution of story more “realistic” and say perhaps it is a slightly darker yet somewhat more probable outcome.

Neither of these shows even come close to being “must-see TV”. But both seem to be reasonably watchable with a fair amount of action if that’s what you’re looking for. And depending on whether you want more family back story and character development or whether you want a mostly procedural action drama you can pick between the two accordingly. I’m going to give both of them a couple more episodes before I decide which if either will become regular viewing.

For now I’m giving them both a reasonably strong “might be watchable” rating. We will let you know if CW’s entry into the field “Valor” has anything extra to offer.