Sunday, October 12, 2014

New Fall Shows, Round 3!

The hits keep on coming, and by "hits" I mean shows that will likely get cancelled in another few weeks. Sorry for the delay in this latest round-up of capsule reviews, but I'm doing my best to make it up to y'all by being particularly clever and insightful with this latest batch.

That last part is a total lie, btw. You get your usual tired jokes and awful puns. You know you love it.

Anyway, let's get to it!

Selfie: The internet decided that this show was going to be terrible months before it even aired. After all, the main character, Eliza, is pretty much a walking example/cliche of everything that is wrong with our narcissistic, self-involved, tech-obsessed culture (despite being portrayed by the delightful Karen Gillan from Doctor Who). And based on the first 5 minutes, which were to be perfectly honest, horrifying, I would agree with the internet. But then a weird thing happened: Eliza (and the show) displayed some moments of genuine pathos that hit me in the gut. And then all of a sudden, I was rooting for Eliza to get her shit together and you know, become a real and likeable person.

Selfie is based on the play Pygamalion (though you are probably more familiar with the musical, My Fair Lady). In this version, Eliza seeks out the "rebranding" skills of her coworker and marketing expert, Henry, to teach her how to connect with people and make real friends...rather than just friending people on social media. What is surprising (and smart) is that Henry isn't set up as an all-knowing perfect example of normal humanity. In his own way, Henry is just as incapable as Eliza when it comes to making connections, so you know--they'll be able to learn from each other. I know, it sounds lame and it's definitely not an original idea, but Karen Gillan and John Cho are inherently likeable and I'll keep watching for now.

Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn they ain't.

Bottomline: If you can look past the vulgarity, there's some real meat and emotion to this story about the difficulty of connecting with others in our self-absorbed culture. Karen Gillan and John Cho are also both great in their respective roles. Selfie airs Tuesdays at 8:00 on ABC.

Gracepoint: The consensus on this one seems to be a general feeling of "....but why?" For those not in the know, Gracepoint is an Americanization of the British mystery series Broadchurch, about the murder of a young boy in an English village. In typical BBC fashion, the British version was nuanced, well-acted, and focused on not only the whodunnit aspect of the story, but also the secrets everyone in the small town kept from one another.

Usually when a British import is adapted for American television, people who are fans of the original wail and rend their garments lamenting how much worse the US show is in comparison to the British one. That's not the case here--Gracepoint is similarly atmospheric, similarly well-acted, and well, similarly everything good about Broadchurch. In fact, THAT's the problem. Gracepoint appears to be almost a shot for shot remake of Broadchurch--including the brilliant long tracking shot in the early minutes of the first episode that introduce the main players in the mystery.

They even got David Tennant to reprise his role as the police detective in charge of the investigation,  playing the exact same character, just with a cheesy American accent. Of course I don't know if the show will have the same killer as the British version, but to be honest, I'm not going to stick around to find out. I've seen this story already. I understand wanting to adapt the story for an American audience, especially given the high quality of the original, but as someone who has seen both, you gotta give me something new to keep me interested.

Even the actors are like, "why are we here?"

Bottomline: If you haven't seen Broadchurch, Gracepoint is a dramatic and intricate story about a murder  in a small town with excellent acting, atmosphere, and twists and turns. If you have seen Broadchurch, then you've also seen Gracepoint. Gracepoint airs Thursday evenings at 9:00 on FOX.

Manhattan Love Story: It's cute. It's too cute. It's another one of those annoying romantic "comedies" where he's a handsome bro, she's an adorable and quirky gal with bouncy curls, they're not perfect but they might just be perfect for each other!

Gag. Me.

It's too bad both the leads in this show are so annoying, because the supporting characters, especially girl best friend Amy (played by Jade Catta-Preta--a dead ringer for Lady Gaga when she looks normal), are actually really funny. But I don't think I can get past the cute. It's just trying too hard. Both the leads showed some promise of actual personality, but I'm not sticking with it to see if those hints of promise are explored.

Oh, and if I see one more show where the writers/producers try to make a gorgeous woman seem more "real" by having her unable to understand how a smart phone/email/Facebook work I am going to lose it and Hulk the fuck out.

She even bites her lower lip. You guys, I CANNOT EVEN.

Bottomline: Plays up every current rom-com cliche and the supporting actors deserve way better. Manhattan Love Story airs Tuesdays at 8:30 on ABC.

The Flash: One of my favorite pilots of the season, The Flash has a sense of fun that can be lacking in Arrow (don't get me wrong though--I love Arrow) but still maintains enough action and drama to keep your eyes glued to the television. It passed the smart phone test--meaning I wasn't reaching for my phone to fiddle with it while the show was on. 

But it's not all fun and games, there's also an underlying sense of stakes and peril; I wouldn't be surprised if some of the characters from the pilot get bumped off in the coming season. Special bonus points for giving Tom Cavanagh a role he can really bite into (is he a good guy? A secret Evil Mastermind? I don't knoooooow!) and putting Jesse L. Martin back on my tv. Do you think he will sing in an upcoming musical episode? God, I hope so. This is a short review, but that's because I don't really have anything negative to say. The Flash is just good old-fashioned comic book fun. 

"Wheeee, I'm super fast! And bouncy!"

Bottomline: The Flash impresses with its ability to combine the fun of superpowers with a real sense of darkness and danger for the characters. One of my favorites of the season, The Flash airs Tuesday evenings at 8:00 on the CW.  

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