Champions is a loser

Champions is a new sitcom on NBC that is so unremarkable I almost didn’t two bother to write a review. The main character Vince of the New York gymnasium he inherited from his father. He has a rather dimwitted handsome looking brother Matthew who is unaware that Vince is about to sell the gym and move to Florida. His plans are derailed when his old high school sweetheart Priya shows up and reveals to him he has a teenage son he didn’t know about. The son who is gay wants to go to a performing arts school in New York. She lives in Cleveland and can’t afford to move so she needs some wire for the son to live while he attends the special school in New York.

Absolutely nothing is interesting about these characters. The boy Michael is kind of cute in his overacted gayness with lots of showbiz clichés. But other than that there’s nothing to be seen here.

Vince is played by Anders Holm was most recently seen in The Mindy Project. Mindy Kaling plays Priya his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child. The boy Michael is played by J.J. Totah. IMDb lists several TV shows he has appeared in one of which I’ve heard of. He’s probably been on Nickelodeon or Disney Channel or something like that.

Obviously this is a strongly rated “Skip It

Play Hooky from A.P. Bio

NBC recently had a sneak peek of a new sitcom titled “A.P.Bio” that is scheduled to premiere officially late this month. If you missed the preview, you didn’t miss much. Basically the entire show is one joke and it’s not a very funny joke to begin with.

The main character Jack teaches an advanced placement biology class in a Toledo high school. But he has no intention of teaching the class. He is a former Harvard philosophy professor who for reasons of which we are not quite sure yet is down on his luck and living with his parents in Toledo. His sole purpose in life is to get revenge on his academic rival another professor currently in Stanford and to sleep with his many women as possible. He recruits his students to pull pranks on his rival like catfishing him on Facebook.

Jack is played by Glenn Howerton who is mostly known for his roles on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “The Mindy Project”.

Patton Oswalt plays the high school principal who tries to get this rogue teacher to actually teach the class but fails miserably. Even someone who has pretty good comedy skills like Oswalt cannot save this ridiculous and unfunny piece of tripe. None of the students or other teachers characters are of sufficient interest to even attempt to describe.

IMDb.com lists six episodes but I would be surprised if all six of them actually make it to air.

This one gets a very hardy and emphatic “Skip It” on my rating system.

The Resident is as Watchable as a Train Wreck

The medical drama genre is already a very crowded space on television these days. The field consists of the well-established and popular Grey’s Anatomy combined with Chicago Med and popular newcomer The Good Doctor. We also have the failure of other medical shows in recent years such as Pure Genius. So I was a little surprised to see that Fox was introducing a new series called The Resident.

This isn’t your conventional medical drama. If you’re looking for feel-good stories about talented medical professionals saving lives in dramatic fashion then this is not your show. The characters are arrogant, overconfident, grossly unprofessional, and in many cases lethally incompetence. The show starts off with chief of surgery Dr. Randolph Bell played by veteran character actor Bruce Greenwood performing a routine appendectomy. He is so renowned that the operating room staff interrupts the surgery so that they can take a selfie with him. Just then the patient prematurely comes out of anesthesia, flinches, and causes the doctor to accidentally slice an artery. His hands were already shaking indicating his incompetence. The patient bleeds out and dies on the table. He then proceeds to conspire with everyone in the room to come up with a fake reason why the patient died. At first he tries to blame the anesthesiologist but eventually they discover the patient’s family had a history of heart disease so they decided he died of a heart attack. It’s obvious that everyone is terrified of this guy and willing to do whatever he says to cover-up this huge mistake.

In this and subsequent encounters with people who cross him, he uses every bit of blackmail he can muster to manipulate and coerce people to do what he wants. He either cites stories of previous doctors, nurses, or residents whom he has already gotten rid of or he threatens them with something they did in their past. Apparently everyone is aware of this guy’s incompetence because he’s been given the nickname HODAD which stands for “Hands Of Death And Distraction”.

The main character that we follow in the opening episode is first year resident Dr. Devon Pravesh on his first day on the job. It starts out with the most cliché scene you’ve ever seen. He’s in bed with his wife or girlfriend we aren’t sure which and she wants to stay in bed with him and he says “I can’t be late on my first day”. How many times have we seen that scene in a TV show or movie. Not much originality here. They must be filthy rich because she gives him a fancy gold watch with his name engraved on it as a present for his first day on the job. We later learn that he did his undergrad at Yale and his med school at Harvard.

He has paired up with senior resident Dr. Conrad Hawkins played by Matt Czuchry whom you will recognize from his role and Cary Agos on the legal drama The Good Wife. He is abusive arrogant unlikable person but can get away with it because apparently he is the most competent doctor in the entire hospital even though he’s just a senior resident.

He is in charge of the new resident Dr. Devon and tells him that rule number one is doing exactly what I say. When a girl comes in with a drug overdose, Dr. Devon tries to heroically resuscitate her and after over 20 minutes of CPR Dr. Conrad tells him to stop but he refuses. He eventually gets the girl’s heart going again but she is effectively brain-dead. Now the family has to sit vigil over her for several days waiting for her to really die again. He’s done nothing but cause extra pain-and-suffering to the family.

Later in the show we see a talented second year resident from Nigeria Dr. Mina Okafor who has been training to use a robotic surgery device. When a VIP patient insists that incompetent chief surgeon Dr. Bell operate the device, they end up faking it having the resident actually performed the operation while the live stream video of the surgery makes it look like Bell was doing it. Again Bell uses blackmail threats to have her deported if she doesn’t cooperate in this scam.

The only decent person in this entire zoo other than the innocent novice Dr. Devon is another resident Dr. Nicolette Nevin played by Emily VanCamp in the first major role we’ve seen her in since the end of her series Revenge.

I’ve watched enough medical shows to know that for the most part they are medically inaccurate but I’m pretty sure this one takes it to an entire new level. I invite you to read the first User Review on IMDb.com. It’s a long paragraph that explains at least five different things that are ridiculously inaccurate as portrayed in the show.

I was a huge fan of Matt Czuchry when he was on The Good Wife. And I have had a bit of a crash on Emily VanCamp ever since I first saw her on Revenge which I never missed. But other than these two performers, the show doesn’t have much going for it.

I may watch another episode or two just to see if it gets any better or if the shock factor somehow makes it interesting in the same way as watching a train wreck. But for the most part I think I would have to give it a rating of “Skip It” or at best a very weak “Could be watchable”.

“LA to Vegas” Should Be Grounded. Not Worth Your Time.

Fox’s new sitcom “LA to Vegas” is a workplace comedy about the flight crew and regular passengers of a budget airline that flies LA to Vegas on Friday night and return trip on Sunday night. It stars Dylan McDermott as Capt. Dave the pilot. He is constantly looking for opportunities to bang women in the cockpit. Stewardess Ronnie played by Kim Matula hates her job and wants to move onto a better airline and better route. Steward Bernard played by Nathan Lee Graham provides a bit of stereotypical gay comedic quips that are mildly funny but generally missed the mark. Veteran comedic Swedish actor Peter Stormare is also mildly funny as a professional gambler who is a regular passenger. But even that isn’t enough to save the show.

I suppose you could describe it as “The Office” on board an airplane. But I never have been a fan of that kind of low-key humor and didn’t like The Office at all. So I can’t really do much of a comparison to say whether this is better or worse.

For me this kind of humor just doesn’t work to begin with and so I can’t judge if this is just my dislike for the type of show or if it really is as bad as it seems. Ultimately my criteria for any sitcom is “Did it make me laugh?”. This one didn’t.

I’m rating this one a very definite “Skip It“.

“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”.

“Channel Zero” is Creepy But Not Much Else

I’ve never been a big fan of the horror genre so it takes a lot to impress me. There are a couple of new offerings in the new TV season that we can take a look at. The first is SyFy Channel’s new anthology series Channel Zero: Candle Cove. They call it an anthology because each season they plan to have a new story with a new cast similar to the way American Horror Story operates. It seemed a bit presumptuous to call it an anthology when they had not yet been picked up automatically for a second season. However it has now been removed for another season after 3 episodes have aired so they must of had some sort of strong feeling that it was going to be more than a one and done situation. The first season runs only six episodes.

The previews for the series didn’t look very appealing to me however it is was created by producer Nick Antosca who was involved with the TV series Hannibal which I really liked. For that reason I decided to check it out.

This story and presumably future seasons are based on short stories which go by the name “creepypasta”. I have never heard of the term so I had to use them research. Wikipedia says it is a horror related legend or image that have been copied and pasted around the Internet. Such cut and paste stories called “copypasta” and since these are creepy copypastas they got the name creepypasta. Here’s the Wikipedia article for more info.

The “Candle Cove” is one of the most famous of these stories. It is the story of a child psychologist who takes some time off to back to his hometown. When he was a child and for other children were abducted and killed. His brother’s body was the only one that was never found. Somehow children’s television show called Candle Cove with creepy looking puppets is at the center of their disappearance. The show mysteriously appears on empty channels and no one knows for sure where the show comes from. Now decades later the show has been reappearing at the mystery of the original disappearance begins to unfold in shocking ways.

The show is more about atmosphere than things jumping out to scare you. There is a bizarre character that is a small child completely covered in baby teeth collected from children presumably from under their pillows.

Having seem to episodes I’m not very impressed with the whole thing. But as I said not much of a horror fan. Given that it is only six episodes if I have time I may watch the rest of it just to see if it gets better but for the most part I would have to say unless you’re a huge fan of the job I would say “skip it”. A much better alternative is the current season American Horror Story

Exorcist Reboot Fails to Capture the Magic

In 1973 when “The Exorcist” was released to theaters, it created a huge sensation. People were shocked by the bizarre supernatural events depicted in the film. The mystery surrounding the whole idea of demonic possession and the church’s position on the topic added to the controversy. There were news reports that people had fainted while watching the movie which added to the hype surrounding it even though it was later revealed they were grossed out by a rather gory depiction of a medical procedure rather than anything supernatural. While the makeup effects and other special effects today would seem timid compared to modern horror films, they were state-of-the-art at the time and they added to people’s fascination with the film. The green vomit and the head spinning 360 degrees became iconic and have been offered parodied. It earned a best screenplay Oscar, best drama Golden Globe, and numerous other awards and nominations.

So now we come to the second of three new TV series based on classic movies. It’s hard to imagine that turning this classic horror film into a weekly TV series could generate even a fraction of the fascination of the original. So it’s no surprise when the new series on Fox titled “The Exorcist” would fall far short. Although the character names are different and the setting slightly different, the basic plot is the same. A family believes that their teenage daughter’s strange behavior is a result of demonic possession. They seek the help of a young priest who in turn recruits the assistance of an older priest who is an experienced exorcist.

Geena Davis does a decent job of portraying the mother at least as well as Ellen Burstyn did in the original film. The rest of the cast is mostly people you won’t recognize or at least I didn’t. After watching 2 episodes I am totally unimpressed with the whole thing. The biggest plot hole is there jump to conclusions that this is something supernatural. There is absolutely zero evidence of that until the final minutes of the opening episode. The mother somehow jumps to this demonic possession conclusion simply because her teenage daughter has been moody, reclusive, and there are strange noises coming from upstairs. Hell that’s called having a teenager. While many parents of teens may wonder what possesses their children, rarely do they take that word so literally.

I’m not sure how many episodes have been ordered for this series but IMDb.com shows at least six. I just don’t see how you can take a story that was easily told in a two-hour film can be stretched out over six or more TV episodes. While we have seen some supernatural manifestations exhibited so far, after two episodes we’ve only barely gotten into territory that could not be explained by psychological issues.

The subplots surrounding the older priest’s previous history fighting demons and the younger priest’s questionable yet platonic relationship with a woman don’t really do a lot to improve the story or give you much deeper insights into the characters. The girl’s father and sisters are simply window dressing to add nothing of substance to the story.

I had initially intended to say that the best part of this series was that it retained classic Exorcist theme song “Tubular Bells” by Mike Oldfield however we only got a brief clip of it near the end of the first episode. It is not the opening theme song for the show and the song did not appear anywhere in the second episode.

If you have an unquenchable craving for a story about demonic possession and exorcisms that lives up to modern day envelope-pushing effects and storytelling then I went have to recommend the Cinemax series “Outcast” from Robert Kirkman who also created The Walking Dead. I’ve only seen one episode of Outcast and I may at some point do a review of it. My quick impression is that they are seeking to push the limits of what the audience will tolerate in the way of shocking story and visuals. While I can’t yet recommend it based on one episode, it is probably more worth your time than this movie reboot.

I’ve already wasted two hours looking for something watch worthy here and was unable to find it. I’m giving this one a rating of “skip it”. Unless you are a rampant Geena Davis fan who is desperate to see her on TV or you are possessed with an irresistible desire to watch a bad reboot of an old movie I suggest you skip it as well.

“No Tomorrow” is the Lighter Side of the Apocalypse

I recently reviewed a number of zombie/vampire apocalypse TV shows but there is one more semi-apocalyptic show that’s new to television this season. CW network as a lighthearted one hour romantic comedy called “No Tomorrow“. While there are no zombies or vampires were big special-effects or blood or gore it does loosely deal with the end of the world.

It stars Tori Anderson as Evie was a rather timid woman with a boring job in a warehouse/distribution center who falls in love with Xavier played by Joshua Sasse who is a free-spirited risk taker who has concluded that the world is going to end in eight months because of an approaching asteroid. He spends his days spending money that he doesn’t have and during various adventuresome things on his bucket list which he calls his apocalist. I don’t recognize Anderson from other programs but Sasse recently played the title role in the comedy musical series Galavant.

Is a typical romantic comedy where boy meets girl, they have an instant attraction, a bit of awkward stalking by both parties until they finally hook up with each other. She has another boyfriend who ends up proposing to her but she can’t make up her mind between the boring boyfriend and the exciting devil-may-care adventurer.

It is an interesting premise for a romantic comedy and it does provide some reflection for anyone who regrets the road not taken. It’s not totally ridiculous but don’t expect much of any substance. Given that CW network’s demographic is young adult I’m predicting it will probably do well. The acting is adequate as is the writing. If you’re looking for a pleasant diversion I suppose it’s okay but for my part I am rating it “skip it”.

MacGyver Missing More than the Mullet

The late comedian George Carlin once did a routine in which he pointed out that when an advertisement says “new and improved” that logically cannot be both. If it is truly new then it cannot be an improved version of something else. Similarly if it is improved that it is not entirely new but just a revised version of something else. Scripture also reminds us in Ecclesiastes 1:9 “there is nothing new under the sun”. Unfortunately in the case of MacGyver, the CBS reboot of the original MacGyver that ran from 1985-1982, it is neither new nor improved.

Although our hero played by Lucas Till has a shaggy hairdo, it isn’t a mullet. For some strange reason I miss the mullet. If that was my only complaint about the show it might be worth watching. I can understand why with modern technology to exploit as a storyline and with more modern special effects they might want to bring back in action show like this one. Both the old and the new MacGyver a guy who can jury rig any kind of device out of ordinary objects. At one point he says to a computer hacker “You can hack computers… I hack everything else.” Which is a pretty good description of this classic character.

While MacGyver’s gadgets always stretched the bounds of believability, you always had the feeling that is maybe the gadgets he put together by the have actually worked. Countless episodes of MythBusters were devoted to his gadgets and devices and some of them did actually work. However in this new incarnation the second thing that he did about five minutes into the show was that he created interference in the communication earpiece of a security guard by making an electromagnet out of a piece of metal, a coil of wire, and a AA battery. Any fifth grade science student will tell you that such a device might make a strong enough magnet to pick up a paperclip or two but not much else. The idea that you can use DC current to create any kind of significant radio waves to jam a radio also is completely of everyday science. I don’t know how much C4 explosive it takes to blow something up. I don’t know what combination of everyday chemicals you can put together to get some unusual reaction. There are a million other things that MacGyver could pull off that I might say “Well maybe that could work”. But when right out of the gates he did something that stupid that so obviously would not work, it tells me that the writers think we’re stupid.

A friend of mine also pointed out to me that the voiceover narration is especially condescending towards the audience as well. At one point he picks a lock with a straightened paperclip and while showing it to us took the time to explain in voiceover that it was a straightened paperclip like we had no idea what it was.

I’m not going to apologize for the following spoiler because the whole show is fairly rotten to begin with. In this incarnation MacGyver has a female assistant who also happens to be his girlfriend. The bad guys capture her and kill her and he spends three months trying to get over it. When he finally does get back to work he discovers his girlfriend was actually still alive and working with the bad guys. This show really doesn’t need that kind of a continuing subplot that the villain is an ex girlfriend.

I have to admit I don’t remember a lot about the original series but it seemed to me that MacGyver usually worked alone. In this incarnation he has a sidekick played by George Eads formerly of CSI. And after his girlfriend died/came back to life he replaced her with a hacker girl that he helped get out of prison to join his organization. I seem to recall Richard Dean Anderson’s original MacGyver have a sort of dry wit about him that is lacking. And the comic relief provided by his new sidekicks don’t make up for that lack of humor in the new version.

I have to give a bit of disclaimer for badmouthing this show for lack of credibility because I’m also a big fan Scorpion in which our heroes routinely come up with a MacGyver-like solutions to problems that stretch credibility and the laws of science to their very limits and often beyond. But they are more interesting people to begin with and the personalities play off one another really well. I just don’t think I’m in the mood for that much mindless action trying to be scientifically grounded and failing. If I wasn’t already watching Scorpion you might talk me into watching a few more episodes of MacGyver in hopes that it would get better. But as far as I’m concerned my sense of nostalgia for this character isn’t strong enough for it to make the cut. I’m getting this one a very definite “skip it”.