Monday, September 29, 2014

New Fall Shows, Round 2!

Another week, another post with some capsule reviews. You see all the time and energy I am putting into this for you people! IT'S ALL FOR YOU.

Anyway, hit it!

Gotham: Clovis is going to give you a full review (and possibly recap?) for this one, but I'll just say a few words. So far, it's been my favorite pilot of the season: stylish and with enough originality to distinguish itself from the other comic book adaptations and Batman stories we've all seen. The focus here is on Jim Gordon, a new detective at the Gotham PD, who is in the extreme minority of the police force with his sense of "ethics" and "justice" and "not killing everything in sight." Sure, we get a look at the murder of Mommy and Daddy Wayne and Gordon forms a bond with a young Bruce, but right now that's secondary. The real focus is on Gordon is battling the rise of Gotham's most notorious villains. 

Fans will immediately notice the future Catwoman, Riddler, and Penguin, but the real baddie is Fish Mooney, a nightclub owner and power player in Gotham's underworld. She's played by Jada Pinkett Smith in a brilliant performance that was one of my favorite parts of the pilot. Fish is smart, badass, and with just enough camp and fun to make you root for her--while also knowing she is a horrible person. Gotham is the battle ground for Mooney and mobster Carmine Falcone who are locked in a fight for control of the city's criminal empire....while Gordon does his best to protect the people caught in the middle. Oh, and I would be remiss to not point out that Ben McKenzie is also great as Gordon. He reminds me of Russel Crowe in LA Confidential, but without the simmering rage. Gordon just wants to do the right thing. In Gotham though, nothing is ever going to be simple. 

Bottom line: Gotham is a dark and stylish comic nerd's dream, with great performances, a solid concept, and stories that will be fun to watch unfold.

Gotham airs Mondays at 8:00PM on FOX. 

Forever: I had very low expectations for this one; I figured it was another procedural with a medical examiner teaming up with a cop to solve murders. But darn if I didn't actually enjoy it. Perhaps it's because Ioan Gruffudd is all dashing and British and I remember him fondly from the BBC Horatio Hornblower movies (we'll pretend The Fantastic Four never happened, mmkay?). Or maybe it's because the show has Judd Hirsch, one of my favorite Jews. But really I think it's because there is enough of a mystery with the main character's, Dr. Henry Morgan, immortality that I find myself intrigued.

"What was that, Maggie? Did you say 'immortality??'" Why yes, I did, gentle reader. Thank you for noticing. You see, Henry can't die. Well, more accurately, he dies but then comes back almost immediately. Reborn at the same age, naked, in a nearby body of water. This has been happening for 200 years, so it's understandable that Henry has become somewhat obsessed with death; hence, his job as a medical examiner. He's also kind of a Sherlock Holmes--super observant, but not in an asshole way. In a more "OMG stop being so charming or I am going to slap you" type of way. He might be a bit too charming. It kind of bugs.

Anyway, the first two episodes had ok central murders to solve, but the real mystery is about Henry and why he can't stay dead. Add to that mysterious messages from someone who claims to share the same condition....and yes, folks, Consider me intrigued. I'll keep watching, though the first episodes' ratings weren't stellar so I'm not expecting this one to be around for long. 

Bottom line: A surprising solid show, though the mystery of Henry's immortality is way more compelling than the standard "murder of the week" storylines.

Forever airs Tuesdays at 10:00PM on ABC. 

Black-ish: Oh, man, I soooo wanted this to be good. I love Anthony Anderson and the ads made it look like it could be a biting satire of suburban culture and how it seems to erase all distinctions among people. Unfortunately, the pilot relied way too heavily on lame humor based around racial cliches and stereotypes. Though I will say the last 10 minutes were somewhat entertaining and I really enjoy the actress who plays the wife/Mom (and is also a doctor, yay!). I might give it another shot to show some more of the promise demonstrated in the later minutes of the pilot, but if the next episode is more of the same, I'm out. 

Bottomline: A disappointing pilot that might be redeemable if the focus shifts to the family rather than the lame racial stereotypes.

Black-ish airs Wednesday nights at 9:30 on ABC.

Madame Secretary: Another show I found surprisingly good. I thought that this was going to be some kind of lame overly sappy drama about a woman doing it her way in the cut-throat world of Washington politics, and while there is some of that (watch out for the cheesy slo-mo at the end of the pilot episode), it actually fills the void left by The West Wing pretty well. There's lots of walking and talking and political maneuvering. While the work Tea Leoni does as the Secretary of State probably steps outside the realistic bounds of the job description, it's still interesting to see inside a cabinet post that I don't know that much about.

So far the supporting cast doesn't leave much of an impression, except for Bebe Neuwirth and Zeljiko Ivanek ,who are both most excellent character actors and always elevate any material. I'm sure the writers will try to give the younger staff members some kind of sexy side plots, but whatever. It's CBS. It's not like they have the same demographic as The CW so I hope we don't go too far down that road. Anyway, I'll stick with it unless the schmaltz starts to outweigh the actual drama.

Bottom line: Promising political drama about a female Secretary of State who is more comfortable working outside the official channels, but has to learn to play politics or may herself with the Chief of Staff as an enemy.

Catch Madame Secretary Sundays at 8:00PM on CBS.

How to Get Away With Murder: This show is ALL ABOUT Viola Davis. She is amazing. Whenever she is on screen, the show is riveting. Whenever she is off the screen it's....well, not. No offense to the other cast members but they can't hold a candle to Davis.

Davis plays law professor Annalise Keating, who teaches Criminal Law at some mythical law school. She is also a partner at some random criminal defense lawfirm (because in tv land, defense attorneys have time to work two full time jobs) who hires a few of her first year law students to assist with her sensational murder trials. You know, like in Legally Blonde.

Ok, sidenote. I am a lawyer. However, I am not going to harp on the inaccuracies of how law school and the legal profession are depicted in this show. We all have our areas of expertise and I am sure some people have trouble watching fictionalized accounts of them; however, I am pretty good at turning my brain off and not letting it get to me. Let's just state for the record that nothing in this show--whether we're talking about law school, the courtroom, or the law firm--is realistic, and leave it at that.

I can't tell you how refreshing it is to see a character like Annalise Keating on television. She's brilliant, tough, manipulative, and kind of an asshole. Also a woman. And also really complicated. While she has many weapons, the writers and Davis infuse enough realism into the character to avoid making her a mustache-twirling villain. She's like the onion and/or parfait of prime time television.

How many times have we seen depictions of white dudes who are jerks, but command respect because of their smarts and their looks. And guess what? Annalise Keating is the same--but she's a lady of color. You could reverse gender cast almost any of the characters on this show without any problems, and I think that's kind of cool. I can't overstate how great Viola Davis is in the role and she is the clear reason to watch. The plot is intriguing (there's a lot of flashbacks so if you get confused with time jumps make sure you pay attention) so that's a point in it's favor, but Davis is completely compelling.

Unfortunately, the supporting cast (especially the law students, led by Alfred Enoch from the Harry Potter movies who is waaaaay out of his depth) doesn't hold the attention as much as Davis. But really, who could? I'm on board as long as Davis and the twisty plot live up to the promise of the pilot.

Bottom line: One of the better pilots of the season, Viola Davis is amazing in the lead role of Professor Annalise Keating, who pits her lamely stereotypical law students against one another in a competition for a few coveted spots in her criminal defense firm. But everyone has secrets...including the students, who find themselves covering up a murder of their own.

How To Get Away With Murder airs Thursday evenings at 10:00PM on ABC.

1 comment:

Caroline said...


But you are right about the rest of the law students. The main dude especially. He is ... not good.