Thursday, August 29, 2013

Fall TV Preview Part 1: New Shows!

Wait...it's the end of August already?

WHYYY?? There's still so much I haven't done!

I know, I know - at this point in the summer we've all broken a few beach chairs, gotten some bad burns, and been way up in some sweaty guy's business on the subway. We've been bitten by bugs, dropped our Ben and Jerry's in the parking lot, and fell headfirst into the pool while trying to clean it (not saying that happened to me, not saying it didn't). But I don't care. Summer is THE BEST, and I'm hanging on to these last few weeks for dear life.
 
Still, time marches on and I would be remiss if I didn't prepare you for one of the most important parts of the fall: NEW SHOWS! How did I get the inside scoop on what's coming up? Since I've started this blog, I've actually gotten screeners for all of the fall pilots mailed to me so I can start checking things out early! Totally kidding - I just have a subscription to Entertainment Weekly and access to the internet, but how cool would that be?


I have read about and watched the previews for every new pilot that I could get my hands on, and my extensive research has led to this Handy-Dandy Fall Pilot Cheat Sheet. So grab some friends after that pick-up football game, make some popcorn, and get the apple cider ready - see, September's not so bad! We're diving into...


New Fall Shows!


Yay!

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX)

Premieres: Tuesday, September 17th at 8:30

What's it about? This cop sitcom stars Andy Samberg as Detective Jake Peralta, an officer who never had to follow the rules until Captain Ray Holt (Andre Braugher) comes in to run Brooklyn's 99th precinct.


Why I'm watching: Created by two of the brilliant minds behind Parks and Recreation (Dan Goor, Michael Schur), this goofy, goodhearted workplace comedy looks like it's going to fit right in with Fox's Tuesday sitcom block. And with comic talent like Samberg, Terry Crews, Joe Lo Truglio, and Chelsea Peretti, I know the jokes will be flying as fast as the po-po through a red light.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC)

Premieres: Tuesday, September 24th at 8

What's it about? In Joss Whedon's TV spin off of The Avengers, a specialized team of Agents come together to form S.H.I.E.L.D. - an organization that investigates the strange and superhuman.


Why I'm watching: I'm a huge Avengers fan (just like every other red-blooded American who paid to see that movie more than twice in the theaters) so, yeah - I'm gonna be watching this one. Plus, Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) is back from the dead! Yay!

Lucky 7 (ABC)

Premieres: Tuesday, September 24th at 10

What's it about? After years of playing the same numbers, seven employees at a gas station in Queens go in on a lotto ticket and win big, but their newfound riches make things more difficult than they ever imagined.


Why I'm watching: This one seems just crazy enough to work: the story is relatable (if you've ever worked a crappy job and bought a Mega-millions ticket with your friends, I'm sure you've fantasized about this exact scenario), and from the preview, the characters actually look like people you would see walking down Astoria blvd. With a relatively unknown cast and a high-concept premise, this show has its work cut out for it, but I'm willing to bet that the risk is going to be worth it.

Masters of Sex (Showtime)

Premieres: Sunday, September 29th at 10

What's it about? This series tells the true story of two researchers, William Masters and Virginia Johnson, and their controversial studies on human sexuality that caused a revolution in the late 1950s. 


Why I'm watching: Out of all the new pilots this season, I'm most excited for this one. I love me a good historical drama, plus: Lizzy Caplan! Michael Sheen (with an American accent)! And those costumes! Heck yeah, I am all over this one. 



Okay...

The Blacklist (NBC) 

Premieres: Monday, September 23rd at 10

What's it about? James Spader plays Raymond "Red" Reddington, a criminal who turns himself in to help catch a terrorist, but only if he works exclusively with newbie FBI agent, Liz Keen (Megan Boone).


Why I'm on the fence: It sounds like Silence of the Lambs meets an alternate universe version of Homeland (and while Jodie Foster isn't involved, Donald Ressler, or "Uncle Mike" from Homeland, is!) so it could be creepy/crazy/cool, or it could just be creepy - we'll have to watch and find out. 

Super Fun Night (ABC)

Premieres: Wednesday, October 2nd at 9:30

What's it about? Three best friends who always spend their Friday nights in get their social lives shaken up when one of them gets a big promotion and a new crush.


Why I'm on the fence: The preview doesn't look too promising, but Rebel Wilson (Bridesmaids, Pitch Perfect) is straight-up one of the funniest human beings on planet earth, so her participation alone makes this pilot worth checking out.

Enlisted (FOX)

Premieres: Friday, November 8th at 9:30

What's it about? While stationed on a military base in Florida after a career slip-up, Sergeant Pete Hill (Geoff Stults, aka Kate's boyfriend on Fox's short-lived Ben and Kate) gets put in charge of training the Bad News Bears of the army, including his two younger brothers. 


Why I'm on the fence: Did I laugh out loud more than once during the preview? Sir, yes sir! But does this also look like it might have the same wacky-group-of-misfits-with-one-normal-guy story issues that Go On did last season? Sir, yes sir!

Also in this category: The Michael J. Fox Show (NBC), The Crazy Ones (CBS), Mom (CBS), Betrayal (ABC), Hostages (CBS)

No Way.

Dads (Fox)

Premieres: Tuesday, September 17th at 8

What's it about? Two dudes (Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi) and their dads (Peter Riegert and Martin Mull).


Why I'm skipping this one: It just looks really bad, guys. Don't get me wrong, Seth Green is great and I usually find producer Seth MacFarlane pretty funny, but between the cheap laughs and the racist jokes, I think we could all skip this one.

Sean Saves The World (NBC)

Premieres: Thursday, October 3rd at 9

What's it about? Sean Hayes plays a single dad trying to be a good parent to his 14-year old daughter while dealing with the stress from his demanding boss and his overbearing mother.


Why I'm skipping this one: If you like multi-camera shows with really bad comic timing and zero laughs, then by all means check this one out, but I think I'll be leaving it off the watch-list. It's really too bad because Sean Hayes is one of my favorite TV stars, but if the preview is any indication, not even he can save the bad writing and overdone premise here.

Also in this category: Dracula (NBC), The Millers (CBS), Back In The Game (ABC), Sleepy Hollow (Fox)


That's it for new fall shows! Check back throughout the next few months for pilot reviews, updates, and changes to the list!

Just a few things...before I break my Snuggie out of storage:

- Leah is currently in the process of moving, so her Under The Dome updates are currently on hiatus for a few weeks. But don't worry, Dome-heads - she'll be back to recap the season finale in mid-September!

- Check out this great New York Times article about the mysterious audition process for Saturday Night Live. You'll get the inside scoop from cast members including Fred Armisen, Jimmy Fallon, and Kristen Wiig on their first meetings with notorious non-laugher, Lorne Michaels.
 

- While we're all sad that Liz Lemon is off shotgunning pizzas in TV heaven, 30 Rock creator Tina Fey has been very busy in the last few weeks: she recently sold two new shows, one to Fox, and one to NBC. Get excited, people!




 See you next week for Part 2 of my Fall TV Preview: Returning Favorites!
Happy Labor Day, Everyone!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

History, Schmistory. Pass the Sangria.

Hello friend! How's your August going?

Have you chased down an ice cream truck yet?

Seen a movie under the stars?

Made a sandcastle?


Don't panic, you still have time!

In the spirit of summer fun, I decided to go back and explore the TV must list that I made in June to see if there were any hidden gems in my top 10. I think it's safe to say there were some winners (Graceland) some losers (Camp) and one what in the name of... (Under the Dome). But for the last of my summer picks, I decided to focus on a show created for those of us who like our U.S. history with a shot of tequila (and a bottle of wine...and a few 40s): Comedy Central's Drunk History.



You guys, this show is downright magical.

When it first started airing, I was unsure if the half-hour version of Drunk History could even compare to its source material (the brilliant funnyordie.com web shorts that started it all), but as the season went on, I fell so head over heels with this weird little series that I was literally forcing people to watch it. In a nutshell, host Derek Waters travels the country getting comedians trashed and asking them to tell their favorite stories about America. Then a whole slew of celebrities (in really bad wigs) re-enact the stories word for word, lip-syncing every burp, hiccup, giggle, and mispronunciation from the story tellers along the way. Believe it or not, you'll actually learn some stuff about this great country of ours from these wasted historians - who knew that Cornflakes were created at a Seventh Day Adventist sanitarium because of an accident with moldy dough? And YES the comics really are drunk (the proof is in the puking) which makes it all the funnier.


Barkeep! Can we get some clips over here?

You got it. I've included the previews below for some of my favorite sketches of the season (and thanks for the tip, but I think you've had enough).

Liz's Top 5 Drunk History Sketches:


5. The Story of John Pemberton and the Invention of Coca-Cola
From the episode: Atlanta
The drunk historian: Jenny Slate
Celebrity re-enactor: Bill Hader




4. The Story of Dolly Parton's Solo Career
From the episode: Nashville
The drunk historian: Seth Weitberg
Celebrity re-enactor: Casey Wilson


3. The Story of Mary Dyer
From the episode: Boston
The drunk historian: Jen Kirkman
Celebrity re-enactors: Winona Ryder, Michael Cera



2. The Story of Lewis and Clark's Expedition
 
From the episode: Nashville
The drunk historians: Alie Ward and Georgia Hardstark
Celebrity re-enactors: Tony Hale, Taran Killam, Aubrey Plaza, Kumail Nanjiani 



1. The Story of Patty Hearst's Kidnapping
From the episode: San Francisco
The drunk historian: Natasha Leggero
Celebrity re-enactors: Kristin Wiig, Terry Crews



Honorable mention goes to: The story of The Kellogg Brothers (Luke Wilson & Owen Wilson) and the invention of Cornflakes, as told by Paget Brewster in the Detroit episode.


Tune in for the "Wild West" season finale of Drunk History, Tuesday, August 27th at 10PM on Comedy Central.


Just a few things before I have too many margaritas and start talking about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire (nobody wants to see that)...

Leah's Under the Dome Recap for the week of 8/19: "The mini dome/black egg has vanished from the woods! Luckily the kids discovered that Joe slept-walked it to his barn...creepy. In other news, a bossy lady named Max appeared out of nowhere and was blackmailing Barbie and Big Jim. She is mean!"


- Check out last week's Nerdist podcast interview with the charming and hilarious Lauren Graham (Gilmore GirlsParenthood) who has a new TV show in the works! She and host Chris Hardwick are friends from way back, so the conversation is particularly entertaining.  

Graham on conquering the fear of missing out: "You gotta shut it down. If you realize at a certain point that you're chasing the fun, you gotta just go home and watch TV." Ah, a girl after my own heart!


- To my good friend Alison - and anyone else who got hooked on Orphan Black and watched the whole thing in two days, only to discover that the next season doesn't start for another 7 months - I am so sorry, and I feel your pain. Let Buzzfeed help you get your life back to normal again (this article from hypable won't hurt either).


Come back next Wednesday for Part 1 of my Fall TV Preview where I'll be exploring all the new must-watch shows of the '13-'14 season. Have a great week, everyone! 


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Coming to America: Broadchurch Edition

Cheerio, mates!

For this week, I figured I'd stick with my BBC America theme and bring you my pilot review of Broadchurch, the murder mystery mega-hit from England that's just making it's way over to the states. My family and I sat down to watch the first of this eight episode mini-series which premiered in the U.S. last week (just in time to fill the hole left by the end of The Killing), and stars Dr. Who veterans David Tennant and Olivia Colman as two small-town detectives bent on solving the murder of an 11-year old boy.


But, Liz - haven't we seen this before? We have. It seems like everywhere you turn in TV-land lately, somebody's getting murdered (a fact that's been sadly proven by Vulture), yet shows without killing in them aren't seen as "quality programming". I'm sorry, but I'm a little murdered-out. So what separates this show from the masses of violent gar-bahge we're inundated with every day? Good question - let's break it down:

The Characters
While the acting is a little over the top at times, the characters really do set Broadchurch apart from it's fellow dark police dramas. Detective Ellie Miller (Coleman) is the most interesting of the bunch so far - Danny's death hits her harder than anyone on the force since he's the son of her best friend, Beth (Jodie Whittaker), and practically a brother to her own son, Tom (Adam Wilson). Plus, she's dealing with her nosy journalist nephew, Olly (Jonathan Bailey) and the fact that the job she was promised was snatched out from under her by Tennant's DI Alec Hardy. He's the outsider who came to Broadchurch to lie low after a mysterious scandal, but is now forced to solve the most high profile murder case the town has ever seen. We spend a lot of time with Hardy and Miller in this episode, so we only get a glimpse into the lives of Danny's neighbors and family: we meet his popular, yet can't-quite-put-your-finger-on-it-suspicious father, Mark (Andrew Buchan), his rebellious older sister, Chloe (Charlotte Beaumont), and his creepy employer at the paper route, Jack (David Bradley). Everyone in town seems to be hiding something, but we'll have to wait until next week to discover more about each of their roles in this mystery.


The Set-Up
This series reminds me a lot of the recent Top of the Lake, in both style (gorgeous nature shots figure prominently in both shows) and substance: both are mini-series that surround a pre-teen tragedy, take place in a small town, and center on female detectives who are working on cases that hit a little too close to home as they deal with the sexist politics of the job. Just like in Top of the Lake, every Broadchurch townie we meet is a suspect to some extent, and I like that I'll be kept guessing until the last moments of the finale. While Broadchurch seems like it's walking a little closer to the beaten path than the weird and original TOTL, it's so well done I expect the familiar material will be similarly elevated to the point where we won't be comparing it to The Killing anymore as the series goes on.

The Buzz
They literally went nuts for this show in Britain, and it was such a huge cultural phenomenon that Fox is planning to remake the series for American audiences (either because they don't trust us to "get" this version, or they've seen what a massive hit it is and are ready to make some serious bank). The reviews of this series have been overwhelmingly positive, and the best news is that after 8 episodes the killer will be revealed, so there's no waiting until the twelfth of never to find out who-dunnit. Just don't jump too deep into the Google rabbit-hole on this one: the finale has already aired in England, so you don't want to stumble upon any across-the-pond spoilers.


Broadchurch airs Wednesday nights at 10 on BBC America, and as of this post, the pilot is available to stream on demand on bbcamerica.com.

Just a few things before I start my new job as Head British Accent Subtitle Coordinator for BBC America (I might not make as much as the woman who does it for Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, but at least all my viewings of Happy-Go-Lucky won't have been for nothing)...


- Leah's Dome Update for the week of 8/12: "Julia is becoming quite intrigued by this new 'mini dome' with a black egg in the middle that Joe and Nori discovered last week. This shiz is getting intense."

- Do you guys follow Stacey Helps? She's a hilarious blogger from Toronto who also contributes to hellogiggles.com - check out her recent video on advice for binge-watching Orange is the New Black. This girl doesn't play around with her TV marathons, let me tell you.

- In oh this is going to be goooood news: Funny ladies June Diane Raphael (New Girl, Burning Love) and Casey Wilson (Happy Endings, SNL) are teaming up to write a new sitcom for ABC! I can't wait to see what these two comic geniuses come up with, and you know there's gonna be guest stars galore - would it be too much to ask for a Happy Endings reunion? Just sayin'...


Let me update ya: follow me on bloglovin by hitting the icon at the top of the page! 
See you next Wednesday!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

You Look Familiar...Have We Met?

Wow, I really have my work cut out for me this week. I mean, taking on the whole first season of Orphan Black - what was I thinking?


To say this smart, thrilling, sci-fi show is complicated is putting it lightly, but here's the gist: On her way to Toronto, Sarah, a British woman with a dark past, sees her doppelganger kill herself at a train station and assumes her identity in an attempt to start a new life with her daughter. The mystery unfolds as Sarah delves deeper into her look-a-like's life, and more familiar faces appear with secrets of their own.

I really don't want to ruin this amazing show for anyone who hasn't seen it yet, so I'm giving all you Orphan-newbies my top 3 reasons to watch, and I've made it as spoiler-free as possible. After that section (and I can't stress this enough), if you haven't seen the show yet and you want to check it out PLEASE STOP READING! Once you've blown through the first ten episodes - and believe me, you will - you can always come back for my kooky fan theories, questions, and predictions for Season 2 (airing April 2014).

WARNING: This series is highly addictive. Don't forget to periodically stop for snacks. 

The Top 3 Reasons to Drop Everything and Watch Orphan Black

1. Tatiana Maslany is beyond awesome
Remember how upset I was that Emmy Rossum didn't get an best actress nomination for Shameless? Well if that was a snub, this was a snub times seven: Tatiana Maslany, who has already won the Critics Choice Award and the Television Critics Association Award this year, was sadly denied an Emmy nod despite the overwhelming consensus that she really is the hardest working woman in show business. Playing seven characters with completely different (and all dead-on) accents, Maslany worked more than overtime on this series, and proved that she is both a dramatic and comedic force to be reckoned with. 



2. Everyone needs a friend like Felix
Poor Sarah - she's going through a rough time to say the least. Thank goodness for her loyal foster brother, Felix (played by the hilarious Jordan Gavaris), the artist/male escort who brings much needed wit and comic relief to keep Sarah - and the audience - from having a complete stress meltdown when things get crazy. Gavaris plays such a perfect Brit, I was floored when I found out that, like Maslany, he's also a bad-ass Canadian with a gift for accents. 



3. This show literally has everything
I've never seen anything like Orphan Black before. It's a science-fiction mystery, a police procedural, and a family drama, all wrapped up in one. This crazy concoction wouldn't work on a lesser show, but Orphan Black skillfully pulls off every shocking twist, steamy sex scene, and witty one-liner, essentially redefining "genre" television.

But Liz, what if I don't like Sci-fi?? Shhh. Don't worry about it. I didn't think I did either, but if this is sci-fi then by all means, bring it on!

Finally ready to have no life? Orphan Black Season 1 is available on DVD and on BBC America on demand. So go grab your nerdiest buddies and a big bowl of popcorn, and get watching!


*MULTIPLE (get it?) SPOILER ALERT*
I must repeat: If you haven't seen the show yet and you want to, stop reading now and go catch up! The following is for those of you who have watched ALL of Season 1. Don't say I didn't warn you...

Go work out, walk the dog - anything! Just don't keep reading unless you've seen episodes  1-10.

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Are they gone?


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Alright, where to begin? This season was so jam-packed with insanity that I could go on for days, but since I don't have an army of clones to help me write this, I'll keep it brief.

There's a reason why Orphan Black is my favorite new show of the year: the characters. Unlike other high-concept series out there that focus more on plot, the character development on this show is off-the-charts amazing. I might be in the minority here, but Sarah is my favorite clone (ok, Cosima's a really close second!) for that very reason. When we meet her in the pilot, Sarah is a punk drug dealer who had a lot of growing up to do. By the season finale, she's still the street smart, tough girl we met at the train station, but she's changed so much because of everything she's discovered. And man, this show never lets the audience get comfortable when it comes to fully understanding these complex characters! Who knew Alison had it in her not to turn off that garbage disposal as Aynsley was being choked to death by her own scarf? After watching episode three, who would guess the science-minded Cosima would let her feelings for Delphine risk the lives of all of the clones? As a viewer, I love that I'm constantly second-guessing my initial impressions of each clone, cop, family member, and monitor as the show uncovers their many secrets and motivations.

Now that Helena is dead (which was sadder than I thought it would be, but it needed to happen) it seems we can trust all of the clones, except of course, Rachel, who is a wild card that I can't wait to learn more about in Season 2. But what about the other characters? That brings me to:

Liz's Questions, Theories, and Predictions for Season 2:


- Can Paul be trusted? Can Delphine be trusted? And the biggest question of all, who is Mrs. S and can she be trusted? Did Mrs. S take Kira away to protect her, or was she the one who Rachel called (which implies that she is Sarah's monitor)? I have a feeling we'll be learning a lot more about each of these characters next season, but Mrs. S is the one I'm most interested in. My theory: Mrs. S was initially Sarah's monitor, but she fled to Canada, not just to start a better life for Sarah and Felix, but to escape Dr. Leekie's surveillance.

- Who is in the picture that Amelia gave to Sarah? Is it Mrs. S, and does that mean that she's Sarah's biological mother? My theory: It definitely could be Mrs. S, but whoever it is, I think the clones' bio-mom is coming into the picture sometime in Season 2. The male scientist's identity remains a mystery to me, but I'm leaning toward thinking it's Leekie - of course someone as narcissistic as he is would want the clones to have some of his DNA - maybe he's the father?

- Is Sarah the only clone who can have a child? We know she's not "the original", but she's clearly special in some way. Where the writers go with this one is anybody's guess, but my theory is that the Dyad institute will be very interested in tracking down Kira for some experiments next season, and we might find out about some other clone-offspring with similar special abilities...

- Will we be meeting more clones next year? With Maslany's talent for accents, I wouldn't be surprised if we saw an Australian, South African, or French familiar face in Season 2. My theory: We're going to meet some Felix clones! Come on, we have to, right? If they were both "in the black" as Mrs. S told Sarah, perhaps that means they did this experiment with more than one set of DNA. And how cool would it be to see the Texas-born-and-raised, football playing version of Felix hanging out with his British counterpart? 


I guess we'll all have to wait until 2014 to find out all the answers, but if you want to to avoid suffering from Orphan Black withdrawal syndrome until then, I got you covered: check out articles here, here, and here, and watch this, this and this for more Orphan-related fun. Plus, this show doesn't lose any of it's magic upon re-watching (in fact it gets better) so start from the beginning and convert some new members into the clone club!



Just a few things before I get ready for my next neo-lutionist rave party...

Leah's Under the Dome Update for the week of 8/5: "After this past episode, I'm 98% sure they'll still be under the dome next week. Also Joe and Nori try making out against the dome to make it disappear. Surprise! It doesn't work."




- Thank you, Buzzfeed, for giving me my New Girl fix this week: Are you a NICK or a JESS? I think I'm a bit of both...




- Finally, check out the newest Mumford & Sons video. Don't worry, it's TV related, but the surprise is too good to give away here (:

Catch you next Wednesday for more TV fun!