September 25, 2010

TV Report Card: Week of September 19, 2010

Man, it was an extremely busy week of TV watching, and I was happy with almost every show I watched, both old and new. I'm still trying to figure out a review system that will be timely and effective without totally destroying me.

For now I'm going to keep the TV Report Card active, and provide some more in-depth musings about a handful of shows (probably Chuck, Castle, and Glee). We'll see how it goes, and without further ado: the first TV Report Card of the 2010-2011 TV season.

Sunday
Boardwalk Empire: "Boardwalk Empire"
HBO introduced us to 1920's Atlantic City, and a world filled with corrupt politicians, gangsters, and Prohibition. While the first half of the pilot episode took some time to get going, once the Scorsese brand of violence and storytelling started you could tell this was going to be a special show. Boardwalk Empire's not prefect yet, and it will probably take some time to really get invested in this show, but it's like nothing else on TV right now. Interesting characters and a brightly colored, yet very dark, setting has extreme potential and is worth a couple more viewings.

GRADE: B+

Monday
Chuck: "Chuck vs. the Anniversary"
The start to the improbably fourth season of Chuck was slow out of the gate. A serious lack of laughs and action made, not to mention too much reliance of sexting, made for a mediocre installment of the NBC spy dramedy. I know I was in the minority, but I preferred last season because the show tired something new. I was also a little miffed that Olivia Munn had next to no screen time after being hyped up all summer. And they say Glee's stunt casting is bad. "Anniversary" was the same old Chuck, which wasn't necessarily a good thing.

GRADE: C+

How I Met Your Mother: "Big Days"
My knee-jerk reaction to the season 6 premiere of HIMYM was, "Thomas and Bays lied because the show still sucks!" In my opinion, nothing in "Big Days" worked, and I could only muster a few chuckles. Robin's become as one-note as Barney, LAME were still lame, and I no longer care about Ted's journey towards "mother".  Don't get me started on the big "twist" involving Rachel Bilson's character, which was telegraphed and uninspired. I'm still hoping that the creators can right the ship like they said they will, but it's not looking good.

GRADE: D

Lone Star: "Pilot"
Ah, the show that's too good for TV. I'm sure anyone who is interested in television knows by now that Lone Star was pretty much D.O.A., which is a damn shame because it had a lot of potential. In some ways it was doomed from the start: a character-driven serialized show that focused on a con-man cheating on two women in the heart of Texas. While Lone Star was definitely my kind of show, it really doesn't scream "commercial". The pilot was great, and I'll watch for as long as its on, but it looks like I'll have a big hole in the middle of Monday nights.

GRADE: B+

Castle: "A Deadly Affair"
The season 3 premiere of Castle was able to address last season's controversial finale without dwelling on it. Once Rick was ruled out as a suspect, all of the Castle-ly goodness was back to full effect. We got some great Caskett banter, sexy looks from Stana Katic, and LOL moments from Esposito and Ryan. The Case of the Week was serviceable, but nothing memorable, which was fine because I could careless about the actual mystery...it's all about the characters.

GRADE: B+

Hawaii Five-0: "Pilot"
I hate to admit it, but I actually liked Hawaii Five-0. I wasn't surprised that the show's entertaining, but as a big Castle fan I was hoping that it wouldn't be so popular. H50 had some great action sequences, a decent enough storyline, and some subtle humor that was actually funny, which all added up to a fun hour of TV. Plus, I appreciated the attempt at getting some of the Hawaiian culture right. The glossiness may not be enough to keep me interested for the long haul, but for now I'm hooked. Quick aside, I'd totally watch a show about James Marsters and Norman Reedus as bad guy brothers. Spin-off?

GRADE: B

Tuesday
Glee: "Audition"
The season 2 premiere had some of the same issues as some of the back 9 episodes of season 1: way too much crammed in a short amount of time. At least the creators are aware of their missteps, which was evident with the very meta cold-open, but let's hope they're actually going to fix the foibles rather than repeat them. Despite having too many plotlines going on, "Audition" felt like an earlier version of Glee because we once again saw these plucky underdogs doing some not-nice things, yet we understand where they're coming from. The new characters have potential, the musical numbers were fun but not spectacular, and the story was frantic, but there was enough Glee charm to make me like the episode.

GRADE: B-

Wednesday
Undercovers: "Pilot"
I wish Undercovers had half of the exciting action scenes that Hawaii Five-0 because the first episode would have been worlds better if it did. The show itself was accessible enough, a retired spy couple was brought back into the fold to save a colleague/friend, but it might have been too accessible. I think that the fact that J.J. Abrams' name is on this show created some misguided expectations. After one episode, it's clear that the Undercovers' world is not going to rely on prophecies, smoke monsters, or alternate universes. It very well might be a run of the mill action show with some romance and laughs, which isn't a bad thing unless people are expecting everything that I listed earlier. After watching the pilot, I felt the show was entertaining enough to come back for more, but I realized how subpar it was after watching Hawaii Five-0, which doesn't bode well. Then again, Alias didn't bust out Rambaldi until a few episodes in, so we might have an addictive mythology on the way.

GRADE: C-

Modern Family: "The Old Wagon"
Only about of a third of "The Old Wagon" worked for me. Everything involving the Dunphys and their old station wagon was gold, and that storyline further proved why Burrell and Bowen are the MVPs of the show. The station wagon story was able to combine one-liners, slapstick comedy, and heart almost flawlessly. The Cam-Jay-Mitchell plot was alright, and the Gloria-Manny moments were almost unbearable. I just cannot stand Manny and his worn out shtick. Overall, the season 2 premiere was meh, but you could still see why the show's successful.

GRADE: C-

Terriers: "Change Partners"
I really, really want to like FX's Terriers, but that's harder to do after watching this week's episode. Hank and Britt are hired to follow a bank manager's wife to prove that she's cheating on him in order for Hank to get a home loan. It's pretty standard stuff until we learn that the employer was in to cuckolding, and then things got weird. Yes, Terriers is not like any other cop/P.I. show out there, but this storyline just rubbed me the wrong way due to its crassness. I'm not a prude or anything, but "Change Partners" just felt dirty. Kinky sex stuff aside, I did like learning about Britt and Katie's past. I just can't shake that last scene between Hank and the banker out of my mind...eww.

GRADE: D+

Thursday
The Vampire Diaries: "Bad Moon Rising"
I liked everything involving Stefan and Caroline this week, the Elena/Damon stuff was boring, and I'm already tired of the Lockwood curse. With all that being said, I did think "Bad Moon Rising" was a good episode, again mostly thanks to Stefan and Caroline. She's become more interesting, and I care about what happens to her. Plus, she has some good chemistry with Stefan, which could be handy once the inevitable Elena and Damon hook up occurs. My least favorite part of the episode was the whole Lockwood story because I'm tired of watching vampires AND werewolves. Can't vampires fight mummies or something else?

GRADE: B-

The Big Bang Theory: "The Robotic Manipulation"
The sooner this show becomes just about Sheldon and Penny, the better it will be. Much like last season, pairing up these two characters worked on so many levels. It always fun watching Sheldon inadvertently insult Penny (like his calculation of how many men she's slept with), but she still sticks around which is a sign of true friendship. On a related note, if they killed Wolowitz tomorrow, all would be right with the world. Robotic handjob jokes? Seriously?!?!?! Absolutely nothing about the B-plot was funny with the exception of a few quips from Raj.

GRADE: D+

Community: "Anthropology 101"
Community needs to stop patting itself on the back so much or someone's going to get hurt. I understood that all of the meta humor was supposed to address some of the flaws of last season and to comment on traditional sophomore year tropes, but the jokes were not as funny as what Glee pulled off. Speaking of Glee, I'm getting tired of this show taking shots at other more successful shows (who'd watch Shit My Dad Says? About 7 million more people than watched your show). I didn't even watch the Shat or care about his show, but making fun of it before it even premiered was both lazy and bush league. Oh, and I'm so sick of Betty White that I was tempted to skip this episode altogether. Fortunately, Alison Brie was as good as always and salvaged "Anthropology 101".

GRADE: D

Bones: "The Mastodon in the Room"
I couldn't even get 20 minutes into the new episode of Bones before disliking it. First off, the team was brought back together in such a sloppy fashion that I was irked right off the bat. Then for some reason we had to see Daisy in nothing but her underwear. I really didn't mind that except for the fact that it didn't make any sense, and was clearing a baiting tactic. So we got the Scooby Gang back together (one of two Buffy/Angel references), and it's the same old junk. Oh, but this time around we got yet another contrived TV trope as we learned that Angela and Hodgins are going to have a kid. They're going to make the most annoying family ever...unless B&B actually get it on and she gets knocked up. Man, I'm so fed up with this show! Some aspects did work though; mainly the stuff involving Booth, Sweets, and Wendall. Maybe those three should have their own show where they hunt down supernatural beings or something. All "Mastodon" accomplished was it pushed me away a just little bit more.

GRADE: D

Nikita: "Kill Jill"
I'm still trying to make up my mind about Nikita. In some ways, it is the show I wish Undercovers could be; a spy show with decent action and a clear story to tell. The thing is, some of the parts continue to be weaker than others like the acting, which can be over the top. For example, I actually wanted Division to kill Jill because the actress playing her was way to hammy. I even remember thinking last week that some of the actors needed to tone it down a notch. With that being said, "Kill Jill" was a decent hour of television. It really didn't push the larger arc forward, but it had the right combination of action, suspense, and story to keep me satisfied. Next week's origin story episode should be a good one.

GRADE: C+

Whew! That should be everything. I didn't include Fringe or Supernatural because I'm not caught up on the previous seasons, and even if I do I don't know if they'll make the rotation. Supernatural might, but there's too much on Thursdays, so Fringe is probably out.

I might stick with some of these shows, but I'm sure some will leave the rotation because they are either canceled (Lone Star) or they just run out of steam (Bones, How I Met Your Mother). Regardless, it was a fun week of TV watching, and I'm excited to see where some of my shows end up this year.

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