The Leaves Change, and So Do My Scheduled Recordings on the DVR, Part 1

17 Oct

Sometimes I get so abnormally excited about the promise of new fall TV shows that it feels like I fill my date card with a new one every hour. And this year was no exception. There were so many shows I wanted to watch, but at the same time, I couldn’t abandon my old shows (I still have to pay attention to them. It’s like having a second child – how do you split your time and love? It’s tough, but so rewarding), so I narrowed it down to the top 8 highest potential programs. They mostly had to involve romance, New York, teenagers, a preview with indie music, or Batman.

You should have seen my DVR after week 1! It was like “…coming home…but to no home I..I had ever known” (Tom Hanks, Sleepless in Seattle). It was beautiful, and I want to share my excitement with you. There was a lot of wine drunk and a lot of tortilla chips dipped in salsa while sitting on my couch in order to get through this challenge…that I created for myself. In fact, there were so many shows and I wrote so many things, that I had to break this post into two parts. I find that both sad (so much time on my couch), and happy (my couch was so comfortable and kind to me!). In the end, there were a few duds, but I also found some keepers, so it was all worthwhile. Just like having a second kid! And by kid, I of course mean television show.

Red Band Society (Wednesdays on Fox)

Red Band Society

Here are some things to know about me: I don’t like watching anything about kids getting sick and dealing with illness, in real life or in fiction; I don’t particularly like hospitals; and I don’t like being emotionally manipulated, unless I win money or a large prize at the end of the manipulation. You can probably surmise, then, that I did not like Red Band Society. You might even go so far as to guess that I detested it. Well, I will respond in a second to your harsh accusations. First, let’s start at the beginning.

Red Band Society is a drama about six teenagers who live in the pediatric unit of a hospital. There is a sassy, take no shit Nurse Jackson, played by Octavia Spencer (whom I love). We know, right off the bat, that she is a handful because the camera so skillfully and annoyingly pans in on her coffee cup that says “Scary Bitch.” Twice. Then there is a hot doctor, played by Dave Annable from Brothers and Sisters. Every hospital needs a Dr. McSteamyPants or whatever they’re called, and this would be him. There’s the main character, Leo, who has cancer and has been living in the hospital longer than all the other kids, and Emma, the pretty and weird anorexic who is the love interest of all the peculiarly handsome boys. And then there is a bitchy cheerleader with an enlarged heart, named Kara, who is so mean that it is completely unrealistic. Jordi is the new kid with cancer, and Dash has cystic fibrosis and wants to lose his virginity to a nurse. The narrator is a boy named Charlie, who is currently in a coma. He can hear everything while in a coma, but he obviously can’t talk, other than to us and to the other characters when they pass out and run into him in the great beyond.

Is this recap making you want to watch it more or less?

He says the wisest things when he sees you in your passed out dreams!

Charlie says the wisest things when he sees you in your passed out dreams!

Here is my surprising reaction to the Red Band Society – I kind of liked it! Despite all of the reasons not to the like the show that I have mentioned (the glaring one being the emotional manipulation thing), something captivated me. Was it the indie music? Was it the quick dialogue? The charming actors? Was it the hospital gowns? Those things helped, but no. It was the emotional manipulation that I thought I didn’t like. Apparently, I kind of like my emotions being kicked around like a soccer ball in the World Cup – violently and for the win. The show is essentially a combination of Glee and Grey’s Anatomy without the singing…yet. There is dark teenager humor, set at a hospital, and at the end you start sobbing to the soundtrack of a Coldplay song.

Glee CryingGrey's Anatomy Crying

I was surprised by the light tone of the show, despite its plot. The writers, in a minutely un-cheesy way, try to focus on the positive side of tragedy – namely, the ability for these kids to bravely face hardship and to ban together to form a supportive community. I think adolescents and teenagers are not given a lot of credit for their resiliency, and I think this show seems to respect it and highlight it, which I appreciate. I might not be a forever watcher, especially if they start pushing topics down my throat like Glee did, or move some of the patients to a hospital in New York so they can hit it big on Broadway. Like Glee did. But if they don’t do too much of that, I might be a fan. Although, Mandy Moore is apparently joining the cast as a doctor, and I aint got no time for Mandy Moore. So, we’ll see…

Follow up: Still watching! And still crying!

 Gotham (Mondays on Fox)

Gotham-TV-Show

 Okay, so here is one more thing you should know me, and then I promise I’ll stop revealing so many intimate details about myself: I really love Batman. Superhero stories are not typically my “thang,” but for some reason, from the minute I saw Jack Nicholson fall into the acid, I was obsessed. I have seen all of the Batman movies, from the goofy Tim Burton era to the super dark Christopher Nolan era. I’ve loved some, I’ve hated some, and I’ve fallen in and out of lust with Chris O’Donnell in between. So, when I saw my Monday night new show options, I thought I would try something I wouldn’t typically seek out, but that I might like (or more likely hate), and I watched Gotham.

Gotham takes place after Bruce Wayne’s parents get killed, and before he becomes Batman, but it’s really not about Batman at all. The show mainly focuses on Commissioner Gordon (Benjamin McKenzie), before he became commissioner, when he was just a lowly detective trying to bring good to the corrupt Gotham City. Harvey Bullock is Gordon’s partner, played by Donal Logue, which is shocking to me because while I knew it wasn’t Jeff Bridges, I kind of hoped it was.

Donal LogueBig Lebowski

 The most fun part of this show, for me, is seeing the characters I’m familiar with, like The Penguin, and Catwoman, and Poison Ivy, before they transformed into that persona. For instance, we learn that The Penguin has a really pointy nose, so they call him The Penguin. And we see that Catwoman is just very talented at leaping around like a cat, from a young age. Did she practice climbing ladders super fast and leaping from tall buildings, or was that just an innate skill? We don’t know yet. The Riddler is just a young man who asks a lot of questions in the form of a riddle. It appears that people get annoyed with his stupid way of explaining everything, which is probably why he grows to hate the world and everyone in it. Just let the man enjoy his riddles and spare a life or two! Also, Jada Pinkett Smith is one of the stars, so we can rest assure that some Smith child will be a regular in not too long.

The other fun part of this show is the filming. They make Gotham City look like it’s straight out of a comic book, which is gorgeous to look at. When I was a kid, I dreamt of living in Gotham City, but I’m glad I didn’t because I would most likely be dead from a bank robbery gone wrong. I also tried jumping rope down my front steps, so obviously I didn’t think a lot of things out.

Follow up: I’ve continued to watch it, but have not set the DVR to record it, hence I miss the first 15 minutes every week. I think that’s a sign that I’m forcing myself to watch it. I will say bye bye soon enough.

Black-ish (Wednesdays on ABC)

Blackish

I read up a little on each of the shows I was thinking of watching, just so I didn’t accidentally watch a sci-fi drama about an evil angel who is also a detective in Miami (the confluence of my two least favorite television genres). Of the shows I picked, Black-ish received some of the best reviews, so I was excited for the first episode. From about minute one, I could tell that Black-ish was aiming to be a little bit Cosby Show and a little bit Modern Family. (Keep in mind that I have only seen, like, three episodes of Modern Family so I truly don’t know what I’m talking about. But I kind of do know, at the same time. I think you know what I mean. Do you? That’s up to you to decide).

 Black-ish is about an upper middle class African American family in a very wealthy, and very white, part of Los Angeles. Anthony Anderson plays the dad, Andre, who works as a high powered marketing exec, and Tracee Ellis Ross plays the mom, Rainbow (I’m guessing we’ll meet her probably divorced hippie parents that named her Rainbow down the road), a high-powered doctor. They have 4 kids, all of whom are quite adorable, and Laurence Fishburne plays Andre’s dad, who we only know by the nickname “Pops.” Laurence Fishburne brings the Walter Matthau Grumpy Old Man character into the mix, which is both funny and also wah-wah. As in, “Who really talks like that? Wah wah.” Let me just get it out of the way that I think Tracee Ellis Ross is A-dorable. I would watch her do anything with that hair and those facial expressions and her funny way of saying potentially un-funny lines. Keep up the good work, Tracee. Also, her mom is Diana Ross.

Tracee and Diana

I did not hate Black-ish, but I didn’t particularly like it, either. I thought the writing was funny enough, and has the potential to get better and better with each new episode. But I also didn’t know how I was supposed to feel about their family. I know I shouldn’t compare the Cosby Show and Black-ish, but I’m about to anyways. What I loved about the Cosby Show is that the messages about being a successful African American family in a white-dominated world were subtle, but African American history and culture was very outwardly celebrated and respected. I know that Black-ish is new and different and not the same exact show, blah blah blah, but the take on race and class issues are handled very differently, and they left me confused. I felt like it was just a big identity crisis, and while that lack of identity is the whole point of the show, I didn’t know what to make of it. Should I want the kids to act more “white” or more “Jewish” if that’s what they want? Is it funny when the dad gets frustrated that they don’t act “black enough?” Or should I wish that the parents worked harder at teaching black culture? Or should I stop over-thinking it and just make the hahas? Probably the last one.

I think “Black-ish” will get less confusing as the show figures out who it wants to be, but I can’t decide if I want to wait for that.

Follow up: I decided I didn’t want to wait for that. But I will try again at a later time (said in a robot voice). And now, a clip of the Cosby Show just because.

Selfie (Tuesdays on ABC)

Selfie

Most of the reviews of Selfie are either starting or ending by saying that one shouldn’t get too attached because it will most likely be cancelled. Let me put in my vote for Selfie not being cancelled! All it needs is a name change, and then a do-over. It’s like the producers looked through that list of the most trendy words of the year being added to the dictionary and decided to name a show after one of them. With that theory of naming, there should have been a sitcom in the year 2012 called Epic about a tumultuous romance between a musician and all his fans. (*Note to self: pitch comedy about tumultuous romance between musician and his fans to FOX and ABC, with the focus on ABC Family).

Selfie is about a woman named Eliza Dooley (Karen Gillan, who is Scottish, which explains why it sounds like she’s using some weird part of her throat to say certain words), who struggled to be noticed throughout her childhood and adolescence, but has made up for it with her online presence as an adult. She gets sick, and realizes that she has no real relationships other than Facebook friends and Instagram followers, so she turns to Henry Higgs (John Cho), a successful marketing exec at her work, to help her change her image and become more likeable in real life. I am embarrassed to say that although I adore My Fair Lady, (hello, Julie Andrews blew the world away with her role of Eliza Doolittle), that I did not at all make the Pygmalion/Selfie connection. Eliza Dooley (Eliza Doolittle) is turning to Henry Higgs (Henry Higgins) to make her into a more socially acceptable person. Get your head out of your ass, me!

This is how I'm looking at myself in my head, right now.

This is how I’m looking at myself in my head, right now.

But back to the title – it’s bad. And because of this unfortunate title, I expected that Selfie would suck. But, so far, its been one of the biggest (happiest) surprises to me. I thought that the pilot was funny and charming. Eliza could have been completely un-likeable, which would have killed the show for me, but every time she acts ridiculous, she immediately offers a glimpse of humanity and vulnerability, which makes her character endearing. John Cho has had my heart since the Harold and Kumar days, so although his character is a touch over-the-top stuffy, he can do no wrong, in my eyes. And as unlikely as it is, the chemistry between the two is fairly believable. Eventually, Eliza and Henry will fall in love, and that’s when the show will get unpleasant, but for now, it’s sweet. The only other risk to a show like Selfie is how much focus they put on material that will eventually be outdated. Like, at some point Instagram will turn into MySpace, and we’ll look back and laugh at the technology being joked about. Of course, at that point the world will have been taken over by robots who are not advanced enough to recognize this irony. And also Selfie will have only lasted one season and will never be seen again.

Follow up: I DVR’d it, watched it, and wasn’t as in love with the second and third episodes. But I haven’t given up yet! I will watch until they rip its cold, dead plot off the network because no one else is watching.

 

Stay tuned for part 2 next week…

One Response to “The Leaves Change, and So Do My Scheduled Recordings on the DVR, Part 1”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Leaves Change, and So Do My Scheduled Recordings on the DVR, Part 2 | broadcouching - October 23, 2014

    […] a continuation of my two-part blog post about all the many shows I watched this fall, here are the final four (oh, I think understand […]

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