Review: black-ish

The only criteria by which I ever judge a sitcom is simply “Is it funny?” Sitcoms don’t have to be socially relevant, moving, well acted, believable, or a whole host of other adjectives that you might apply to a TV show. In my book they just have to be funny. Shows like “Modern Family” and “2 Broke Girls” are ridiculous and unbelievable but they make me laugh so I watch them. However I don’t think I will be watching any more episodes of the new ABC sitcom “black-ish“. The short version of my review is that it is rated “Skip it”. By the way the non-capitalization is the way they spell it on the TV show itself. That’s not my typo.

The series stars Anthony Anderson as Andre ‘Dre’ Johnson who is black and has a mixed race black-ish wife and several kids. He lives in a mostly white neighborhood and works as an advertising executive in a mostly white company. In the opening episode is excited about being promoted to a vice president position but then learns that he’s in charge of the new “urban division”. Basically they made him in charge of all things black and he doesn’t like it very much. He feels like he’s lost his culture identity as a black person and realizes his kids never had it to begin with. During a dinner conversation several of them claimed they didn’t know that Obama was the first black president. I didn’t have any sympathy for him if his kids were really that stupid. Even when the youngest about six or seven years old said “He’s the only president I’ve ever known.” it just didn’t gave me any sympathy for him and it just wasn’t funny. When I was that kid’s age I knew that I was Catholic and that JFK was the first Catholic president even though he was the only president I had ever known.

You will probably recognize Anthony Anderson from his 50 episodes of playing detective Kevin Bernard on the original Law & Order rather than other sitcoms or guest starring roles he has had. The only other recognizable face in the show is Lawrence Fishburne whose talents are totally wasted in his portrayal of the grandfather of the family.

A friend of mine speculates that the reason this stinker has gotten such good reviews is because white reviewers don’t want to be seen trashing a black comedy. I don’t suffer from such restrictions no matter how much of a bleeding heart liberal I am.

As stated earlier, this one is a “Skip it” on my rating scale.

Review: How to Get Away with Murder

Producer Shonda Rhimes now owns a monopoly on Thursday night ABC. Her hit series Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal are now followed by a new show “How to Get Away with Murder“. Although she did not create or write this series but only is executive producer, it fits right in with her other types of shows. Namely strong women (two out of three black) who are in powerful positions and who live in worlds where plot twists are everyday occurrences. However I’m not sure this one is going to live up to the standards of the previous two. It is written and created by Peter Norwalk whose only leather credits include co-executive producer and writer for other Shondaland productions.

Viola Davis plays Annalise Keating is a criminal defense attorney and a law professor. Davis is best known for her Oscar nominated performances in the films The Help and Doubt. In the opening episode her character recruits five of her top students to work in her law firm on real cases. The open classroom scene is such a ripoff of The Paper Chase that I can’t believe they actually did it. It’s the tough law professor who ambushes a student on the first day when he didn’t realize that they had already been given homework before the class even started. Either that happens in every law classroom so it is an ordinary occurrence or they just ripped it off. But the comparisons stop right there. Keating is no Professor Kingsfield. She also isn’t the sort of idealistic good guy lawyer that we are used to seeing on TV. Before the episode is over we see her get stolen illegally obtained evidence admitted in court. And after she calls to the witness stand a police officer with whom she is having an affair and ambushes him into saying that he has seen police corruption that could exonerate her client, you’re left wondering whether she simply used her pillow talk knowledge of his day-to-day work to her advantage or if she actually coerced him into committing perjury. I guess time will tell in future episodes.

The show also uses the gimmick of telling the story in two different timelines. It starts out with five college students trying to decide what to do with a dead body and a murder weapon. Then it flashes back three months to their first day in her class and that’s when we discover that they are her new interns. The story flips back and forth between the two timelines throughout the opening episode and the way things are going we can expect to see that same manner of disjointed storytelling. It was innovative when they did it in the Glenn Close lawyer show Damages but it made the plot more confusing. It does keep you guessing what’s going to happen next and how you’re going to get from here to there but after a while he gets to be really annoying in my opinion and I’m not looking forward to it in this series. There are times when flashbacks, flashforwards and parallel timelines make for interesting storytelling but I’m not convinced this is going to be one.

For that time being I’m going to give it a couple more episodes so I guess technically my rating is “Could Be Watchable”. But there are better lawyer shows on the air such as The Good Wife, Suits, and if you can classify it as such Scandal. Although I’m not reviewing existing shows, I will say here that the season premiere of Scandal really hit the ground running and continued at the phenomenal quality it has had in previous years. If you like political intrigue and have not seen this show, by all means check out Scandal. And if you got some spare space on the DVR in time to watch it then try this murder show and see if it is to your taste. Just don’t expect the usual Shonda Rhimes quality.

Review: Forever

I recently posted a message on Facebook saying that based on the premise of the new ABC drama “Forever” it probably would not last as long as the title suggested. And while it won’t last forever, but certainly should last much longer than I first expected. The main character is Dr. Henry Morgan portrayed by Ioan Gruffudd you may recognize as Reed Richards from the Fantastic Four film series but more recently appeared in the TV series Ringer where he was has been to Sarah Michelle Geller. The title “Forever” comes from the fact that Dr. Morgan apparently cannot die. The show opens with him getting killed in a New York City subway train crash and then he miraculously reemerges in the middle of the Hudson River totally naked but otherwise unharmed.

I recently asked about the series “Z Nation” the question “Do we really need another zombie show?” And one might rightly ask “Do we need another show about immortals?” We got vampire stories that are semi-immortal or at least can heal quickly. Add to that list Wolverine from the X-Men. You’ve got Christopher Lambert in the Highlander series of TV and film. And let’s not forget my favorite Capt. Jack Harkness from Doctor Who and Torchwood fame. My point is this is been done before so what else can be brought to the genre? As it turns out they may have found a reasonably interesting new twist.

After the subway crash and resurrection, in voiceover he explains that 200 years ago he was a board a slave ship as the ship’s doctor. When the crew tried to throw overboard one of the slaves who simply had a cold and was not infected with cholera, Dr. Morgan intervened and tried to save the man. For his efforts he got shot in the chest and thrown overboard himself. This was Morgan’s first death and he has resurrected many times since then. In present day is a New York City medical examiner which allows him to study the phenomena of death up close.

The only person who knows his secret with his friend Abe played by Judd Hirsch. It’s obvious that their relationship goes back many years but you don’t really find out how they met until the very end of the first episode and I will not spoil that surprise for you but look for it carefully or you may miss it. His assistant in the medical examiner’s office is Lucas Wahl played by Joel David Moore who you have previously seen in 14 episodes of Bones as one of Dr. Brennan’s many interns. The other major character is the very sexy Detective Jo Martinez played by Alana De La Garza who you might recognize as Marisol Delco Caine from CSI: Miami. And more recently the TV series “Do No Harm“.

Dr. Morgan himself having lived over 200 years trying to solve the mystery of his existence is a very observant and analytical person with a Sherlock-Holmes-like ability to just look at you and know your life story. I suppose you have to ask do we need another Sherlock Holmes character and I’m not sure about that. Morgan seems to be constantly pining over the lost love of his life Abigail whom he met in World War II when we see parts of their relationship told in various flashbacks. The whole “being immortal is no fun because you have to all of your loved ones die” plot line is also not at all original.

So it seems like they’ve taken a lot of old ideas: immortality, Holmesian deduction, lost love due to immortality etc. and thrown them together. But for some strange reason it all really works for me. Some of it is the witty dialogue in which he somewhat sarcastically yet humorously talks about all the different ways that he’s died. For example when someone seems to us found out secret he tries to decide whether to run or face them. He recounts other bad experiences when someone figured out is immortality. He had his blood drained, organs removed, hanged as a heretic and then casually says “Hang me once shame on you, hang me twice…”. In another throw away line he says things like “That would hurt like getting a blunt object punched in your spleen which believe me is no fun!” Someone will have to create a wiki webpage to keep track of all the ways he’s claimed to have died.

In my most recent review of “Scorpion” I bemoaned it having “plot driven technology” and I long for a show that had “technology driven plot” where you introduce some strange new technology or in this case the ability to be reborn each time you die and then you ask the question “What if?”. That’s exactly what this series does and does so brilliantly. For example when he’s trying to figure out what kind of poison was used to kill the subway driver and he can’t get the tox screen quickly enough, he injects himself with blood from the corpse that still contains the poison just so we can see how he himself dies thus identifying the poison. And a bit of a spoiler, at the end of the episode when he’s trying to stop the bad guy and the only way to do it is to throw him off the roof of the building, he ends up having to fall off the building with the bad guy knowing that he’s just going to reboot but the bad guy will be stopped from poisoning thousands of people in Grand Central Station. The point is he’s taken this strange ability and turned it into a tool that lets him do his job. It may be a jumble of retread ideas but it is smart and clever and occasionally funny and a little bit dramatic and it seems to have peaks my interest very much so.

I’m giving it a very definite “I’m Watching” rating.

Review: Scorpion

Many years ago I coined the phrase “plot-driven technology”. It describes that point in a sci-fi story or even a non-sci-fi story that involves some sort of high tech equipment wherein you ask the question “Why don’t they just___(fill in the blank)__?” and the answer is “Because the plot of the story required it to work that way.” You’ve seen it hundreds of times. “Why can’t a Klingon warbird fire its weapons while cloaked?” And then later movie “Why can the Klingons now fire while cloaked?” The answer to both questions is “Because the plot required it.” While all technology has its natural limitations, way too often a lazy author invents a reason for the technology to fail just at the right moment to move the plot in the direction that he wants it to move. This is especially true in sci-fi where the technology is made up in the author’s mind anyway so he feels free to impose whatever limits he wants to.

Well written sci-fi or technology-based drama can say “What if we had a particular technology that doesn’t really exist? What might happen under those circumstances?” And at that point you have a technology driven plot. Not plot driven technology.

I really, really wanted to like the new CBS series “Scorpion” and you can probably see why if you know me at all. It’s about a group of four young geniuses who are hired by the government to solve the problems that mere mortals cannot solve. They are all socially awkward introverted super geeks with a combined IQ of 700. “Scorpion” is the hacker name of this band of misfits. In the first episode they pair up with a diner waitress who has a young son who is withdrawn, noncommunicative with anyone except his mother, and as it turns out perhaps even a bigger genius than the heroes of our story. The basic plot is that they are going to help her understand what it means to have a genius for a son. And she is going to help them to get along in the world that they don’t understand because they are stuck in their heads.

The previews for the show promote it to be an action-packed thriller and indeed that’s what we got in the first episode. Our gang of heroes has 45 minutes to keep 50 passenger jets from “falling out of the sky”. Along the way they have to hack into numerous databases, physically break into a cloud storage facility, steel hard drive, steel of Ferrari, drive it down the runway as a jet airplane flies overhead and dropped a computer cable down to their laptop so that they can fix the software bug while driving hundred 50 miles an hour towards a crash barrier.

I love the premise of the show and the characters look reasonably interesting. But my problem with the show is that it is just totally unbelievable because it has wall-to-wall plot-driven-technology. The basic problem there trying to solve is that a bug was found in newly uploaded air traffic control software. It crashed their entire airport systems and simultaneously cut off all and I mean ALL ability to communicate with the aircraft. I’m just not buying it. Are you really telling me that there is no analog radio or backup communication system available at all between the ground and jet airplanes? So the whole crisis upon which the entire episode is based is totally unbelievable. Then the repeated statement “the planes will fall out of the sky if we don’t do something!” Doesn’t make any sense. The skies were clear. You can land the plane using visual flight rules if you had to rather than just deliberately run out of fuel and crash. Then of course is the whole James-Bond-like solution of sealing a really fast car, driving down the runway at high speed with an airplane flying 10 feet off the ground. The copilot climbs down into the wheel well to feed a network cable down to our heroes were carrying a laptop. Then they can download a fresh copy of the software from the airplanes, install it in the ATC towers and solve the problem. Oh I forgot to mention that the original software was backed up in a cloud storage facility but that backup gets overwritten every few hours. Any cloud worth its money keeps multiple revisions intact just so that this kind of thing doesn’t happen. It was just all too much manufactured crisis for me.

In any sci-fi or high-tech show, you naturally ask the audience to engage in a mild suspension of disbelief. Sci-fi is all about the question “What if?”. This show asks us “What if you had a bunch of 20-something-year-old geniuses can solve problems using mental powers way beyond those of mortal men?” So we suspend our disbelief and give them that premise. But the rest of the show needs to be smart enough to play that what if game with some credibility. In recent advertising for the show they’ve added the tagline “inspired by actual events”. My guess is that they realized that the show stretched credibility way too far and there trying to convince you this kind of stuff could really happen. I can believe in a bunch of geeky geniuses solving problems using brainpower and technology and that you can have a good action show based on the premise. But this one just doesn’t work very well.

I will probably continue to watch it for a few episodes because the human interaction between the characters does show some promise. It does seem to have a lot of heart at times as the geniuses try to counsel the mother to a deeper understanding of her young son. And as ridiculous as they were, the action sequences were a lot of fun with well done special-effects. So it’s not really a bad show. It’s just not nearly as great of a show as it could have been and it left me sorely disappointed. I’m giving it a tentative “Could Be Watchable” rating.

Review: Gotham

Every time the Batman saga gets a reboot it always starts with a young Bruce Wayne witnessing the murder of his parents. Then we jump forward to an adult Bruce Wayne either being Batman or at least training to become Batman. But what happened in all those years in between and how did all the other characters in this DC comics universe get to be the iconic characters they are destined to become? And how did the city of Gotham itself become a city that would attract such costumed arch criminals and a masked vigilante to fight them? Fox network’s new Monday night series “Gotham” attempts to answer those questions and if the first episode is any indication of what’s to come, it does so brilliantly.

The story is told through the eyes of Detective James Gordon whom we know will later become the famous police Commissioner Gordon who is Batman’s contact in the Gotham City Police Department. He is portrayed by Ben McKenzie who you would most recently remember from the TV series Southland where he played police officer Ben Sherman. Gordon is a young rookie detective who is partnered with the veteran Detective Harvey Bullock who has appeared in the Batman comics but has never been in any of the films or TV series. He is very aptly played by Donal Logue who has recently done multiple episodes guest starring roles on Law & Order:SVU, Vikings, and Sons Of Anarchy. He is a tough, shoots first and ask questions later kind of guy who is not afraid to do what needs to be done to catch the bad guys. In contrast to Gordon who literally shouts “stop or I’ll shoot” while chasing a bad guy who is firing at him. Gordon never did fire his weapon throughout the chase. In another scene he talks down a crazed junkie who is holding someone hostage rather than just shoot the guy and get it over with as Bullock would have preferred he had done.

While this good cop/bad cop duo would make it interesting enough show on its own, we also get to see Gotham’s up-and-coming band of young criminals. It gives us the opportunity to see their origin stories in a new light as well.

First off is Selena Kyle who is a teenage street kid who picks pockets, agilly slinks around rooftops and fire escapes, and likes to steal bottles of milk to feed stray cats. She is also a witness to the killing of Bruce Wayne’s parents and throughout the first episode keeps an eye on the young orphan showing us that Catwoman’s interest in Bruce Wayne goes back a lot farther than we thought. She is portrayed by newcomer young actress Camren Biscondova. Although she hasn’t had any lines yet, she certainly portrays the physical aspects of the character well.

Oswald Cobblepot is a young henchman who is already going by the nickname “The Penguin” because of his odd walk. However it’s a name he is not yet embraced and is angry whenever called by that name. He is a right-hand man to a new character not found in the comics. Jane Pinkett Smith portrays Fish Mooney. She is a nightclub owner with connections to a local mob boss Carmine Falcone.

We are also introduced to Edward Nygma who is a police evidence technician who is unusually obsessed with riddles. You don’t have to be clairvoyant to figure out his future. We also get a glimpse of a very young and timid girl named Ivy Pepper who avoids dealing with her abusive father by tending houseplants. We know her future as “Poison Ivy”. There is also a glimpse of a comedian who is auditioning to play at Fish Mooney’s nightclub who is not identified as a criminal but whose dark sense of humor could eventually land him the title Joker.

Gotham itself is a character in the show. We get to see its corrupt police department is achieved a tenuous detente with the criminal underworld. Gordon’s struggle will be between doing what’s right and maintaining this balance between law and organized crime that keeps the city from decaying into total chaos.

If TV shows get Emmy awards for casting (I don’t know if they do or not) this one is certainly worthy of earning one. Gordon, Bullock, and Mooney are familiar faces to TV viewers but they fit the roles excellently. The young criminals however are mostly unknowns with extremely short resumes on but each looks as though they were born to play their parts as these characters.

If you are a fan the Batman saga then this is an absolute “Must-See” on my rating scale. But even if you are not a comic book fan but are a fan of film noir crime drama with fascinating characters and amazing art direction then I would highly recommend this to you also. You won’t see capes, or masks, or the usual comic book shtick. This is just juicy crime drama that’s well worth a look see.

Review: Madam Secretary

A new series on CBS Sunday nights is Madam Secretary. Téa Leoni plays Elizabeth McCord, a former CIA analyst who retired from The Company “on a matter of principle.” The series starts with her teaching in a Virginia University as a political science professor. She’s married with three kids although we only get to see the two teenagers at home. Word comes that the Secretary of State has been killed in a plane crash en route to Caracas Venezuela. President Conrad Dalton played by Keith Carradine is a former CIA director who was her boss and mentor when she worked for the agency. He recruits are to replace the dead Secretary of State and tells her she was his first choice for the job when he was elected but got talked out of it by his advisers.

Flash forward three months where she is settling into the job having moved her family to DC. She is resistive of the parts of the job that are all for show such as hosting a dinner for the king of Swaziland and his 10 wives and for getting a personal makeover by a stylist appointed by the White House to make her more camera friendly.

The main plot of the first episode is about 2 American college students who sneak into Syria to promote peace by joining an anti-government group. They get arrested and are being held hostage and the government is threatening to execute them.

She seems to constantly butt heads with her staff which includes Bebe Neuwirth. Most of them were leftovers from the previous secretary. She also isn’t getting along very well with the president’s chief of staff who is played by Zeljko Ivanek. He always plays characters who seem to have some hidden agenda and you definitely get that vibe from him here as he’s constantly trying to block her access to the president.

Tim Daly plays her husband who is a religion professor. Their relationship seems solid and he serves as a sounding board when she has problems at work. Other than that he hasn’t given much to do so far.

She remains friends with some of her old colleagues at the CIA and uses back channel contacts with Russian diplomats to negotiate the release of the hostages. One of her old CIA friends comes to her in the middle of the night in a panic and says he thinks that the plane crash which killed her predecessor wasn’t an accident. You can’t tell if he’s a burned out agent for conspiracy theories or if there really is something going on. Then he turns up dead. So the conspiracy is off and running. It remains to be seen how much of the weekly plot will circle around that issue.

The dialogue is smart. The plots are reasonably credible and the acting is decent. The show is immediately followed by The Good Wife on Sunday nights and should appeal to that audience as well. If you like tough, smart, intelligent women in interesting situations such as The Good Wife and you will really like this as well.

The shows creators said that they saw the intrigue around the Benghazi scandal and said to themselves “We’ve got to make a show about this.” The background of the character isn’t very Hillary-like so it isn’t exactly ripping off her story. Then again the title of episode 2 is “Another Benghazi”

I’m giving it a definite “I’m Watching” on my rating scale and it could get upgraded to “I Really like It” if it holds up week to week. I suggest you do to.

Hank Med Visits Nurse Jackie; DC comics film goes to hell; Jaws dies; More Tyrant; More Arms; Dig delayed.

It’s time for all of the new fall shows to premiere as well as returning series. There was a link to a calendar in my previous installment of entertainment news and I’m posting daily updates on Facebook as well as writing reviews for some of the new shows.


In the links below read

Spoilers from Michael Ausiello dated September 11

Spoilers from Inside Line dated September 15

Interview with American Idol judges about what was right and wrong last season and looking forward to this season

TV critic Michael Slezak reviews Red Band Society.


Not in the links below but also of interest.

Discovery Channel is going to strand 2 rival US senators on a desert island for a reality show. It’s a shame they can’t find 25 more islands.

Although Longmire was just canceled by A&E it may not be dead. Producers are shopping it to Netflix and other streaming services.

USA announced the final six episode season of White-Collar will premiere November 6. Producers promise a “shocking” series finale.

TNT has renewed Murder in the First for a 10 episode second season.

Luke Perry is joining CSI: Cyber in a recurring role that might become permanent

Former Community star Gillian Jacobs will star in “Love” a half-hour sitcom produced by Judd Apatow for Netflix.

Former cast member Bill Hader will return to SNL but this time as host on October 8.

Darrell Hammond will replace the late Don Pardo as announcer for SNL. It was revealed that he has been doing a Don Pardo impersonation with the real guy was unavailable due to age and/or illness.

Able Teller son of Jax on SOA is one lucky dude. His preschool principle will be Alicia Coppola and his teacher will be Courtney Love.

FX has renewed “Tyrant” for season 2. I never watched it

CBS has given series commitment to an hour long drama Supergirl. No casting news yet.

RIP 7 foot 2 inch actor Richard Kiel best known for playing “Jaws” in James Bond films and tall aliens in a variety of shows. One week short of his 75th birthday.

AMC has renewed arm wrestling reality series “Game of Arms” for Season 2.

ABC has acquired the rights to da Vinci code author Dan Brown’s “Digital Fortress” with a put pilot commitment. I thought it was the least believable of Brown’s books.

AMC will coproduce a sci-fi series Humans with UK broadcaster channel 4 based on a Swedish series.

George Clooney will receive Golden Globes’ Cecil B DeMille award.

Universal is making another Jason Bourne film starring Matt Damon.

USA network has pushed action-adventure series “Dig” back to 2015 rather than this fall because it could not be filmed in Jerusalem with all of the Gaza conflict going on. It has been moved to Croatia and Mexico for filming. An FBI agent investigates the death of an archaeologist and uncovers a 2000 year old conspiracy.

Discovery Channel will air Nik Wallenda attempt to walk a tight rope between skyscrapers in downtown Chicago November 2

Mark Feuerstein a.k.a. Hank Lawson on Royal Pains will recur in the season of Nurse Jackie

Fox has purchased the right to DC comics Lucifer

ABC is developing “LA Crime” a true crime series set throughout the history of LA

TNT has nabbed cable broadcast rights to five upcoming Marvel studios films including Avengers: Age of Ultron

Artist Roger Dean whose artwork as appeared on the album covers for Yes, Asia, and Uriah Heap has lost his suit against James Cameron in which he claimed Cameron stole his artwork as inspiration for floating mountains in Avatar. This is the fourth suit against Avatar that Cameron has won.

Bus side posters promoting Red Band Society have been pulled because of complaints. It wasn’t so much that they labeled “Coma Boy” as did I in my review but Octavia Spencer’s nurse character was labeled “Scary Bitch”. Prove you can make fun of the handicapped but not call a woman a bitch. Oh well.

E! Network will continue “Fashion Police” without Joan Rivers

TNT is making a four hour miniseries about Neil Armstrong titled “One Giant Leap”

Joan Rivers will appear in two episodes of the new season of Celebrity Apprentice premiere date unknown.

Cheryl Burke announced this will be her last season as a dance pro on Dancing with the Stars. She’s my favorite.

Matt Smith a.k.a. the 11th Doctor has joined the cast of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” in theaters in 2015

Sony pictures animation is making a CGI animated Popeye movie for 2016 release

X-Men character Deadpool will get his own movie in 2016




Ask Ausiello: Spoilers on Big Bang, Bones, Good Wife, Arrow, Supernatural, SOA, Once, NCIS and More

Matt’s Inside Line: Scoop on Castle, Arrow, Once, Dixie, NCIS: LA, New Girl, Gotham, Beast and More

Idol Judges on Season 14: J.Lo Wants Less Cruelty, Adam Lambert Seeks Artistry, Harry Flinches at ‘Geek’ Label

Red Band Society Premiere Recap: Are These Kids All Right?


Review: Z Nation

I suppose the first thing we have to ask ourselves about Z Nation is “Do we really need another zombie show?” This one premiered on SyFy Channel last week and will air its second episode tonight. The gold standard for zombie shows of course AMC’s The Walking Dead. The Walking Dead has all of the deliciously gory zombie kills, the horror of being overrun by a swarm of zombies, and everything else you normally want any post-apocalyptic survivor story. Walking dead is also one of the best written, best acted dramatic hours on television. Walking Dead earns my highest Must-See Rating so “Z Nation” has stiff competition. If you also include comparisons to such shows as FX channel’s The Strain which although it is a vampire show still people running away from monsters who are trying to bite them. There is also competition from BBC America’s In the Flesh. So do we really need another zombie show?

Unfortunately like most of my reviews, the jury is still out in some ways.

In comparison to Walking Dead I would have to say the special effects, gore, and violence are about on par. They did top Walking Dead in the first episode by having the first zombie baby which was kind of cool. This show is definitely playing it more for laughs than for drama so comparisons to Walking Dead on storytelling and writing and acting are not going to be possible. In that respect it is a very different show. You don’t get that sense of dread or malaise that you get from Walking Dead. On the other hand it’s not as over-the-top as zombie films such as Simon Pegg’s Shaun of the Dead or Woody Harrelson’s Zombieland

The zombies themselves are faster than your typical zombies. Faster than Walking Dead. However they are not superhuman fast as in the Brad Pitt film World War Z.

The basic story takes place three years into the apocalypse. A group of survivors meets up with a soldier who is trying to get from New York to California  accompanied by “The only person known to survive a zombie bite”. He was given the only does of an experimental vaccine seconds before the lab where it was being developed was completely overrun by zombies. He bears the scars of multiple bites and has an overall bad attitude that he doesn’t want to be the savior of mankind. Spoiler his military escort gets killed off in the first episode and the other group of survivors decides to take up the cause of escorting the sky to a lab in California where hopefully he can save the world. You know like you do.

They are assisted via radio by some nerdy guy in an underground NORAD like military facility. He got left behind when everyone else bugged out of the base. He runs out to the runway to try to catch the plane just in time to see it take off and explode shortly afterwards.

The bottom line is if you are a zombie apocalypse fan once a good fun ride without all of the drama and angst of The Walking Dead then this is exactly the show for you. In my rating system and giving it a definite “I’m Watching It“. For now I’m recommending it to fans of the genre. That is in contrast to my Must-See recommendation for The Walking Dead in which I suggest anyone who can’t even remotely stomach it, check it out for some of the best drama you’ll ever see. The Walking Dead returns to AMC October 12 for season 5.

Review: The Mysteries of Laura

It was 2006 when Will and Grace left the air after eight seasons and we no longer got to see the best of what Deborah Messing had to offer us in the way of comedy. We did get to see her in a six hour miniseries followed by a 10 episode series titled The Starter Wife which had its moments but overall wasn’t that great. We also got to see a dramatic side of her for two seasons of Smash. When I heard she was getting a new show on NBC I was really looking forward to it because I’ve always been a big fan.

In her new series The Mysteries of Laura which premiered on NBC this week, she plays police detective Laura Diamond who is recently divorced (her husband is dragging his feet signing the final papers). She’s raising twin 4-year-old boys who are the most rowdy undisciplined children you’ll ever see on television. In an opening action sequence she shoots the ear off a guy who is who is holding it hostage at gunpoint and then walks away casually. Her car and her desk and her clothes are always messy. In trying to find a new preschool for her boys she did background checks on the teachers to see which one had the most parking tickets so she could blackmail them into getting her interview with the principal. It’s pretty much just one silly cliché gimmick after another. And SPOILER: her ex-husband who is also a cop gets transferred to her precinct and gets promoted to be her boss. Like we didn’t see that coming.

Underneath it all she does solve a crime but it was a little bit too much of a Perry Mason moment when at the last minute she declares “I solved the case” and then proceeds to reveal that the killer was someone who has never been a suspect the entire show.

In a way it’s reminiscent of comedy cop shows such as Monk (although her messiness is opposite of Monk’s OCD) or perhaps Psych although not quite as over-the-top.

The opening action sequence was kind of fun. Deborah Messing is easy on the eyes even though a scene in a swimming suit highlighted her flat-chested figure. I will probably like it better than I did Brooklyn Nine-Nine which I stopped watching after about two or three episodes.

For now giving it “Could Be Watchable” under my rating system. Keep in mind I’m a huge Deborah Messing fan or I would probably be passing on this one completely. Once I get to know her character better and decide whether or not the silliness is really funny or just plain stupid then I will decide whether or not to keep watching. For now I’ll watch as long as I have DVR space and time but don’t be surprised if it’s one of the first that I cut from my list of watching.

Review: Red Band Society

So a producer walks into a network executive’s office and says hey I’ve got a great idea for a TV show. It’s a mix of Grey’s Anatomy and The Breakfast Club. And without hearing another word, the executive says yes and it appeared on Fox network last night under the title “Red Band Society“. Okay I don’t know that for a fact but after watching the first episode it has to be something like that. (On further research this is actually a remake of a Spanish TV series of the same name.)

And they are none too subtle about the references to those two shows. Octavia Spencer plays a short, rotund, hard-nosed, African-American nurse who even gets referred to as “a Nazi” just like Chandra Wilson’s Dr. Bailey in Grey’s. The head doctor is named McAndrews which might as well be McDreamy. It’s their job to take care of the group of about six teenagers in various stages of death living in a Los Angeles hospital pediatric ward. Among the kids we have a former jock, a bad boy, a basket case, a stuck up cheerleader, etc. etc. There is a voiceover narration throughout the entire show just like Grey’s except there’s a surprise. We will get to that surprise in a minute.

Trying to repeat the success of two other successful franchises can be a challenge that is too big to meet especially throwing two of them together in the same show. The real test will be the writing and the acting. Once I realized what the show is about I got a giant chip on my shoulder because I knew each week that was going to be some teenager who had a chip on his shoulder because he was sick. And in some respects we’ve got that. However the chip seems to come and go frequently. Part of the time the kids have an attitude of “I wish people wouldn’t treat me special because I’m sick”. And the rest of the time they expect people to treat them special because they are sick. They gratuitously playing the “pity me” card but it’s not because they really want pity, they do it because they know they can manipulate people with it. In a strange way that actually works. One of the reasons I’m going to be somewhat judgmental and picky about this show is because it strikes a little bit close to home having grown up with a disability of my own and having friends who dealt with their own disabilities with varying degrees of success. Also having to have face the loss of friends due to their disabilities at an early age influence is my perspective.

The title of the show comes from the red paper wristbands that the kids get when they go off to surgery.

There is a risk that a show about kids many of which you have terminal illness can get overly melancholy, overly melodramatic and just plain sappy. I held back lots of reservations about the show until the last quarter of it in which it tiptoed up to all of those lines that managed not to cross them. It’s actually written with quite a bit of heart and it will tug on your heartstrings and maybe have you reaching for the tissue but I don’t think it goes too far.
However, there are problems. And they are big ones.

The voiceover narration is actually a kid who is in a coma. Even though he can’t move or speak, he claims to be able to hear everything and to tell you the story as it unfolds. His hearing must be supernatural however because he also comments on things that don’t occur within earshot. Another problem with coma boy is a scene where one of the other kids passes out and as she is unconscious she has a vision wherein she can communicate with the boy in the coma. And in another scene one of the patients reveals that he too was able to speak to the coma boy while he was under anesthesia during surgery.

If you could get past that strange plot point there are some other unrealistic things going on. The coma boy has a girl for a roommate. Despite the fact that he’s in a coma he would never see mix male and female patients in the same room at a hospital in the US or perhaps the world. In another scene, they are wheeling a kid off to surgery and he asked if they could wait a minute. The doctor agrees and the kid jumps up off of the gurney, runs down the hall to give something to one of the other patients and then comes back again. You think they’re really good to let you get away with that?

If you can overlook these plot devices and just roll with the story, this has a lot of potential. I mentioned it tiptoed up to the line of being overly melodramatic. Different viewers will draw that line in different places and who is to say that the writers will continue to be as skillful at not crossing it as they were in the first episode.

I’m giving it a “Could Be Watchable” on my rating scale. It could get upgraded the quality is sustained in future episodes.