Visiting “The Neighborhood” Will Not Make You “Happy Together”.

CBS just premiered 2 back to back sitcoms on Monday night. Neither of them are worth your time.

“The Neighborhood” is about a white couple that moves into a mostly black LA suburb. The white couple is Dave played by Max Greenfield recently seen in “New Girl” and Gemma played by Beth Behrs formally the blonde of “2 Broke Girls“. Their next-door neighbor is Calvin played by Cedric the Entertainer and his wife Tina is played by Tichina Arnold whom I’ve never seen before.

The whole thing is a one joke show. So a white couple moves into a black neighborhood. They try too hard to fit in. Some of the black people accept them and some don’t. End of story. This one gets a solid “Skip It

The other show “Happy Together” has an even weaker premise. A guy is the accountant for an Australian popstar. When the popstar’s life becomes a shambles and is chased by paparazzi he ends up moving in with the accountant and his wife. It stars Damon Wayans Jr. recently from “New Girl” and Amber Stevens West who recently appeared in “The Carmichael Show“. The popstar is played by Felix Mallard whose only previous credits are an Australian soap opera. I could barely watch one episode. This one gets a solid “Worthless” rating. It’s my candidate for the first show to be canceled. We will see.

“God Friended Me” Uninspired and Predictable

From films like “Oh, God” to “Bruce Almighty” and their sequels to TV shows such as “Touched by an Angel” to “Joan of Arcadia” to “Saving Grace” to the recently canceled “Kevin (Probably) Saves the World” the idea that someone is called by God to do special things in the world has pretty much been done in film and TV for many years. CBS’s new comedy/drama “God Friended Me” attempts to update the genre to the social media era we currently live in. I’m not sure there’s much left to explore in this premise.

I liked Joan, Grace, and Kevin but not because I was inspired by the idea that God or angels or other supernatural beings were encouraging them to make a difference in someone’s life. And as a person who considers himself a man of faith I’m not turned off by the religious theme. But I’ve only washed these shows because the characters were compelling and the scenarios were interesting or humorous apart from the godly guidance aspect of the shows.

Unfortunately I can’t say the same for “God Friended Me”. Our hero Miles Finer is an atheist podcaster who is this son of a preacher. He lost his faith when his mother was cured of cancer (thanks to his prayers) but then was soon after killed in a car accident. He is played by Brandon Michael Hall. While trying to promote his podcast promoting the idea that there is no God, he receives a Facebook friend request from none other than God. After declining the request several times he finally accepts it and gets a friend suggestion from God for a man named John Dove. He then immediately bumps into him on the street. Out of curiosity he follows him into the subway and ends up saving him from killing himself when John attempts to jump in front of the train.

Thinking that the whole thing is a hoax he turns to his friend Rakesh to help him track down this bogus “God” account. Meanwhile another friend suggestion from God leads him to a reporter named Cara Bloom played by Violett Beane. She is most noted for her role as Jesse Wells speedster resident of Earth-2 on “The Flash“. Together they try to explore who is pulling this presumed hoax on him. Along the way they uncover secrets to her past that connect the two of them.

There is nothing inspired or original about the entire experience. If you have seen any of these other similar shows then the story is totally predictable. There is a sort of heartwarming conclusion to everything as you might expect including his reconciliation with his estranged preacher father played by Joe Morton. Morton most recently played bad guy Rowen “Command” Pope on “Scandal“. It’s uncertain whether or not he will be a major character in the show or not but on the surface it looks like a waste of his talents compared to the meaty part he had in “Scandal”.

With the cancellation of “Kevin (Probably) Saves the World” after one season if you are hankering for this particular genre I suppose it might appeal to you. But somehow this one just doesn’t do it for me. Out of deference to people who might like it I will give it a “Could Be Watchable” but overall for me it’s a “Skip It“.

You Should Purge “The Purge” from Your DVR

In our current political climate when Congress seems unable to act and presidents from both parties have taken to the use of executive orders to try to get anything done, the idea of the government run amuck is a ripe topic for a horror/thriller TV series or film. The Hulu series “The Handmaid’s Tale” does a brilliant job of showing us in near future America when the government holds terrifying control over the population. Last season’s outstanding “American Horror Story: Cult” was its first ever season with no supernatural elements but quite effectively drew its terror from the current political climate. Unfortunately the new USA Network 10 episode limited series “The Purge” fails to deliver as either a political commentary or a horror story.

We’ve already had four feature films in the franchise based on the same premise. The basis of the entire franchise is that it takes place in the near future or perhaps an alternate version of America present-day in which one night per year in which all crime including murder is illegal. From 7 PM until 7 AM next morning anything goes. The government has declared this to be a fundamental right that people may exercise. The premise being that if you let people experience total chaos and anarchy once a year to get it out of their system, you can justify more significant oppression and control of their lives the other 364 days. It also serves to thin the herd of some of society’s less desirable and less prosperous people.

The original film “The Purge” (2013) followed an upper-middle-class family who believed they would be safe during the purge thanks to a newly installed home security system. It starred Ethan Hawke as the father. The mother was played by Lena Headley known for her role as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones. It wasn’t a great film but it was watchable on cable. You felt the peril that the family felt as their home was attacked and their lives threatened. They explored the moral dilemma that they faced when someone begged to be let into the house to escape attackers. Can you trust a stranger in need under such circumstances?

While it was a reasonably good thriller, it failed to explore the political landscape which allowed such a situation to rise. You never did get a good feel for why the government instituted such a practice. Had we not already experienced a franchise such as “The Hunger Games” in which the government promotes chaos in order to counterbalance its oppression, the film would have made even less sense.

I have not seen the other three films “The Purge: Anarchy” (2014) which seems a little bit redundant in its title, “The Purge: Election Year” (2016) which probably failed to be any more terrifying than what really happened in 2016, and the recent prequel “The First Purge” (2018). In my opinion the premise barely held up for one film. I can only suppose that the other films were just a way to capitalize on the mild success of the first one and to have an excuse to make really violent movies. I would hope that the “Election Year” version went a little more into the politics of this universe and the prequel similarly filled in some of the back story but I can’t say for sure.

Now we come to the topic at hand which is this new 10 part series based on the films. The episode presumes that you understand either from the films were from the advertising of the show just went is “The Purge”. They didn’t even bother to put up a title card explaining the premise. It’s a little bit difficult after one episode to figure out exactly who are the main characters and who are just supporting roles. We have a young couple who are attending a purge party of political bigwigs who are celebrating the event. They seem to feel uncomfortable being there despite the fact that the venue is under strong security from outside chaos and everyone involved has signed a waiver giving up their right to purge that night. Another woman from some large corporation is forced to work all night on an upcoming merger deal. She and her colleagues are similarly isolated, protected, and have signed waivers not to purge. However near the end of the first episode she sneaks out for purposes yet to be revealed.

The only mildly interesting subplot is of a man looking for his sister. He finds that she has joined some sort of cult in which they are basically a suicide pact which offer themselves up as a sacrifice to the chaos of the purge. They dressed in robes and go out as a group on a bus to an area where they know they will be slaughtered. However this subplot, like the entire plot, seems like a one note story. Once you say “Wouldn’t it be interesting if one night per year all crime including murder was legal?” There really isn’t a lot to explore. Similarly “Wouldn’t it be interesting if there was a religious cult who took that opportunity to commit suicide by offering themselves as a sacrifice to the purge?” Okay so there’s a premise but what of it.

The TV series stars no one you ever heard of before so I won’t bother listing their names or credits. You can always follow the IMDb links if you are curious.

One could be hopeful that some of the back story on how the purge came about or what are the political motivations and consequences of it might be explored in the remaining nine episodes. But that’s a long way to go on nothing but hope. Unless you are a huge fan of the films and have gotten something more out of films 2 through 4 then I got out of the original, you would probably agree with me that this deserves a very strong rating of “Skip It“. If you do want to check it out, the only saving grace might be that it is only 10 episodes. I think your time would be better spent watching “The Handmaid’s Tale” or some other better done dystopian future franchise than this one.

“Carter” is the Least Credible of the Overdone Consultant Detective Genre

I wish that I knew someone who worked as a detective in a police department to ask them a simple question: “Did you ever hire an outside consultant to help you solve a crime?” I would be willing to bet large sums of money that the answer is a resounding “No”. Yet if we were to take TV shows at their word, we would presume that it was an everyday occurrence. We used to have lots of private detective shows like Magnum, P.I. (which is being rebooted this fall by the way) or Mannix and of course classic movies and mystery novels are full of PIs such as Sam Spadeor Mike Hammer. But we seem to be flooded with police consultants these days. The most ridiculous of these just premiered on WGN America in the form of a procedural called “Carter

Of course the most famous outside please consultant from literature is Sherlock Holmes created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887. He has been adapted and re-adapted many times on film and TV. The most recent Sherlock incarnation is Johnny Lee Miller in “Elementary” which will air its seventh season this fall. This reimagines the character in a modern-day setting with a further twist that his companion Dr. Watson is female. Even before that, Edgar Allen Pro perhaps invented the murder mystery genre with his character C. Auguste Dupin who first appeared in 1841 in Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue“. In the case of these classic characters they are such geniuses that we can believe that the police might consult them on a case. On a much lighter note we had “Monk” who was a neurotic super detective played by Tony Shalaoub for eight seasons. He was a Sherlock Holmes style super detective character but at least he had the credentials of being a former police detective.

Slightly less credible as the non-police super sleuth we had Patrick Jane played by Simon Baker on “The Mentalist” for seven seasons. He was a fake psychic showman who was adapt at reading people’s tells and understood the psychology of how to manipulate them into confessing or revealing themselves as the guilty party. The FBI was aware he was not really psychic but just observant. The show also featured the romantic tension between him and his FBI partner Teresa Lisbon played by Robin Tunney. Taking a much more comic approach to the same fake psychic routine was “Psych” in which a super detective actually convinced the local PD that he had psychic powers that he could contribute to police cases when in fact he was just a gifted observer. “Psych” is played strictly for laughs and the show didn’t hesitate to “jump the shark” many times including an all musical episode in its final season. Despite its ridiculous premise, it ran for eight seasons and there have been follow-up TV movies. It’s great for a laugh but extremely far-fetched as a serious detective show.

Unfortunately the trend these days is for people from less credible professions who cross over to take up the role of police consultant. The most successful of these cop consultant shows was “Castle” in which mystery writer Rick Castle played by Nathan Filion who consulted with NYPD to help them solve crimes because he knew so much about criminals from writing novels about them. The premise is ridiculous but the stories were fun and the chemistry between Castle and the detective Kate Beckett whom he later married in the show was genuine. The show was a hit for eight seasons.

In the past year we’ve had several more entries into the genre. First we have “Deception” in which a disgraced stage illusionist teams up with the FBI to use his skills as an allusions to trick criminals into revealing themselves. He also is able to uncover when the criminals are using the art of illusion to throw the police off of their crimes. Again there was a hint of romantic link between the consultant and a female detective that given enough seasons probably would’ve gone down the road of Castle. I liked the show but it only lasted one season.

This year also brought us “Instinct” in which the outside consultant is a former CIA agent, turned author, turned college professor. He gets pulled into a case by the NYPD when a serial killer uses his best-selling book on abnormal psychology to leave clues to his next victims. This character portrayed by Alan Cumming was also paired with a hot young single female police contacted but they avoid the romantic connection because he is gay. His background in psychology and abnormal behavior as well as his CIA background lends some credibility to the story. The show was successful enough to get picked up for a second season. I’ve enjoyed it enough to keep watching.

Finally we come to the most ridiculous cop consultant stories of the bunch. The first is ABC’s new series “Take Two” in which a washed up actress who played a detective in a TV show teams up with a private detective supposedly to prepare for an upcoming film role where she will play a PI. Rachel Bilson plays the actress turned PI and Eddie Cibrian is her PI buddy. The idea that she knows a lot about police work or has some sort of special insights just because she played a TV detective stretches credibility to the breaking point. There is even a ridiculous scene where the bad guy has her gunpoint, forces her to put down her gun and she ends up kicking the gun in the air and hitting him in the face with it thus re-creating a scene from one of her TV episodes. I’ve only seen one episode out of the nine that have aired. There will be a total of 13 this season and it’s too soon to tell if it would get renewed for another one.

As if this genre wasn’t already overloaded to the breaking point, this week WGN America premiered a new series called “Carter” in which Jerry O’Connell plays an actor from a popular cop TV show. As in “Take Two” the actor has suffered a public meltdown although it hasn’t yet ruined his career. He is on hiatus between seasons so he goes home to Canada to get away from the limelight. While on hiatus he teams up with a childhood friend who is a police detective. She is played by Sidney Tamila Poitier. She is the daughter of famous actor Sidney Poitier. This one is played a little bit more for laughs in that they at times poke fun at the TV cop genre. They are still taking the ridiculous approach that being a TV detective somehow trained you to do the real thing. This is mitigated only by the back story that he has been a semi-famous boy detective in his childhood apparently having to do with the case of his mother who went missing. We will have to see where that story goes in future episodes.

Even the TV series “Lucifer” in which the devil himself becomes a police consultant has more credibility than these actor consultants because Lucifer has a certain hypnotic ability that can coerce people into nearly confessing their crimes. The show was canceled by Fox after three seasons but has been picked up for a fourth season by Netflix. Although a bit silly at times, I do enjoy it.

In summary I sort of liked “Deception” even though it lacked a lot of credibility. “Instinct” with its Sherlock-like consultant and “Elementary” with its reimagined actual Sherlock Holmes are both worth watching. But I can’t recommend either of the actors-turned-consultant shows “Take Two” or “Carter” and unless you are more interested in a RomCom than a real cop show. They both get “skip it” ratings from me.

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”.