Monday, February 9, 2015

Underthinking Pilot Season: Empire

Hello everyone,

Cat here. Put music in your show and I will watch it. Glee. Smash. Nashville. Galavant. But unlike the creators of those properties, I understand that those shows aren't meant for everyone. But then there's Empire.

Guys, if you're not watching Empire... why are you not watching Empire? It is delicious, soapy goodness with musical breaks and I can't get enough of it.

Sure, not everything makes sense. There's that nonsense Lucious spouted about the internet and disenfranchised youths when the internet has lowered the barrier to entry for the music business and allowed smaller artists and unrepresented artists to reach a larger public than they would have been able to without it. There's no good reason why he has to groom one son to be his successor instead of having them work together. King Lear had three daughters.

But if you can watch this show and not get taken in by Terrence Howard's and Taraji P. Henson's performances, I don't know if we can be friends. Taraji in particular is amazing. Not that the show needs carrying but let's just say she's ready and able to shoulder the burden should she need to. Beyond that, Cookie is still a very interesting character. She's not politically correct at all but at her core, she's a good person. And don't think I missed her shout out to one of (I think) the only two women in that boardroom. I see you, Empire. I see you.

While I think the family dynamics are the strongest part of the show I would like to learn more about Tiana and they really need to do something about how they're writing Andre's wife because none of that makes even an ounce of sense.

CONCLUSION: Watch Empire. I'm going to. At this point in the series I don't care that much about any of the sons and there's a whole boatload of craziness happening but I will continue watching to see what they pile on next. You should too. 

Underthinking Pilot Season: Marry Me

Hi guys,

Cat here. Continuing on with my effort to just plow through a bunch of these posts, let's talk about Marry Me. I like Casey Wilson. Happy Endings was great. The Hotwives of Orlando was occasionally amusing. I like Ken Marino (Reaper, Burning Love). I should like this show, right?

Well, at the start, I didn't. I didn't hate the show but it was feeling a little forced. I was hyper aware that the show was a show. I didn't connect with the characters because it felt like one long sketch or a game of how fast people could deliver their dialogue. Honestly, I felt like I was drowning in banter.

However, as the pilot went on the laughs picked up. The jokes are there and the line delivery is great. Having now watched more episodes, the characters are growing on me though I still feel that sense of remove. They feel more like actors than people and in going for a laugh you sacrifice a lot of emotional depth. So while I don't really care about the characters that much even now, it is an enjoyable little half hour show.

Lastly, tell me the Kevin's are not how they should have written Rachel's dads on Glee.

CONCLUSION: Give it a chance for a few episodes. If it doesn't win you over, it just might not be for you. It's pleasant and funny and diverting but not a must watch.

Underthinking Pilot Season: Red Band Society

Hi there,

Cat here. I've had a bunch of notes cooling in drafts for different shows and it's time to speed through them. We might as well start with Red Band Society since it's been cancelled. Spoilers for the pilot ahead.

The first strike against RBS was the voiceover. I eventually got used to it on Blackish, Selfie, Manhattan Love Story, and A to Z but enough already. And now it's on Fresh Off the Boat. Who came up with this infuriating trend for this TV season? Red Band Society is without a doubt the worst offender though since the narrator here is the kid in a coma. It also stretches believability to have him as the narrator because even with him overhearing things in his room and the other characters talking to him, he would not know this much about everything happening in the hospital.

There's a level of ridiculousness here but it's less Glee and more Juno and I don't mean that as a compliment in spite of how you might feel about those respective properties. The dialogue is terrible and I don't know where this hospital is that has a giant school room with all of these students who I guess are at relatively the same learning level. The characters are ridiculous and not in an appealing way.

Overall, I didn't find the pilot funny at all and none of the characters (except for Octavia Spencer's nurse character) made me want to watch another episode.

And now for a list of times RBS seemed to want me to hate it.

  • "Shouldn't we call 911?" "Not til I post this on Instagram." 
  • when the cheerleader visited the coma kid in the "in between" world
  • the mindbogglingly terrible metaphor of the cheerleader having an enlarged heart and needing a heart transplant
  • the textbook characterization of the girl with the eating disorder
  • the time the cheerleader said "cray cray" unironically
  • the probable love square

Friday, February 6, 2015

Underthinking Pilot Season: Fresh Off the Boat

Hello lovely readers,

Did you miss me? I've been around. Not on this blog, but I've been around. I could tell you what I thought of Galavant but that can always be a post for another day (maybe if it gets a second season). I was recapping it for another site and I had enough of it without trying to review the pilot here. Suffice it to say I don't think they really did right by their female characters and I place a lot of the blame for the lackluster quality of the show at Glenn Slater's door because I think stronger lyrics would have helped a lot.

Now, on to Fresh Off The Boat. It worries me a little that they aired the first two episodes back to back in Galavant fashion. This isn't The Quest. You should not be trying to burn off episodes as quickly as possible. And furthermore, it's not necessary because this show is fantastic. It does not reinvent the wheel as far as family sitcoms go. And the comparisons to Blackish are fair. It's another smart, funny family sitcom that deals with racial issues. And I'm totally cool with that. I'm still watching Blackish and I will keep watching Fresh Off the Boat every week until/unless they take it off the air. Now, I don't think this show deserves to get cancelled but the majority of shows I love don't have a long shelf life, or at least spend that air time scrabbling to stay on the air.

I understand that the focus right now is on Eddie and his father. They are the two main characters who have the strongest motivations and the clearest goals right now so it makes sense that their stories are dominant. But I would love to eventually see more meaningful input from the female characters whether that's Eddie's grandmother or other students in school or easily one of my new favorite characters on television, Jessica Huang. Constance Wu is everything. Her favorite song is Something To Talk About by Bonnie Raitt. Yes. If I were younger and watching this show, Jessica/Constance would totally be one of my role models along with Lea Salonga for whom I harbor a deep-seated adoration. In two episodes she is already a strong, complex human character who is well written and well acted. And if that weren't enough, she gets to be funny. She's not an utterly ridiculous clown and she's not the straight man. Instead she's given a part that I can only describe as one that you'd expect a male character to have on any show where the actress wasn't also involved in the development process.

Conclusion: Needless to say I highly recommend checking this show out and supporting it. It might not rock your world but it has a strong, coherent voice and unlike many of the comedies we've gotten this season, it manages to be consistently funny. ABC might have failed on the rom-com revolution (though I did watch the entire seasons of Manhattan Love Story... it got better and Selfie... it was amazing and I hate them for cancelling it) but they are knocking it out of the park with their family comedies.