Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Fall Premieres Part I

It's the most wonderful time of the year! The Fall TV season is upon us and it's like Christmas morning, but with even more potential for fun and disappointment! Which of our anticipated favorites will end up being awful? What black horse series will be take us by surprise and become a new obsession?

And remember, there's also the chance that everything will be terrible. Wheeee! It's like TV show roulette!

There's a whole lot of shows and only so much typing my little delicate lady-fingers can handle, so I am going to knock these out quick and dirty for you over the next couple weeks. Sure, some things might be worthy of a full write-up, but I'm fundamentally lazy so the chances of that are kinda slim. #truthtelling

Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris: You gotta give it to him, NPH always works really hard. You can tell that he really wants to make this one succeed; he was almost manic in the premiere, with the jokes! And the stunts! And the dancing and the quipping and chatting and smiling and jumping and...man, it's exhausting just writing about it.

The producers don't want you to call it a variety show (that's been made very clear in all the pre-premiere press), but I'm not sure there's any other way to capture the essence of the show. Best Time Ever's website describes it as "a live one-hour show that is unlike any other on American television. Anything can happen on "Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris," which will feature appearances by A-list stars, stunts, comedy skits, incredible performances, mini game shows, audience giveaways and hidden camera pranks."

They're also very open with the fact that it's based on a British series called "Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway," and while I've never seen the original, I'm willing to bet it's better than the American version.  Because the first episode of Best Time Ever felt a little too rushed, a little too full, that there was never any time to breathe. NPH worked his butt off, but none of the segments got the chance to stretch their legs.

I can't decide if making the show live is a help or a hindrance; in the premiere NPH felt almost frantic and the pacing was kind of off. NPH came across more "used car salesman" rather than "comfortable show host." But the guts of the show are sound, the gags were pretty funny and/or cute and/or clever, and I think with time when everyone settles into it there really could be something here. Though it's unlikely it may get the chance based on the premiere ratings. Still, if you're looking for something family-friendly, say to watch with the parents sometime, this would be a great pick.

Honestly, the best reason to keep watching is to see what the show does with the "Little NPH" guy. He's kind of like Neil's Mini-Me. Please, God, let there be a Doogie Howser, MD, reference soon.

Best Time Ever airs Tuesday nights at 10:00PM EST on NBC.

The Bastard Executioner: Wow, this show has really thrown me for a loop. I kind of hated the first hour which felt like a total Braveheart rip-off except in Wales, and featured such gratuitous violence (especially towards women) that I almost turned the television off in disgust. The entire set up of the series was so paint-by-numbers it was kind of embarassing.

According to the press-release monkeys over at FX, The Bastard Executioner is about "Wilkin Brattle, a 14th century warrior, whose life is forever changed when a divine messenger beseeches him to lay down his sword and lead the life of another man: a journeyman executioner. Set in northern Wales during a time rife with rebellion and political upheaval, Wilkin must walk a tight rope between protecting his true identity while also serving a mysterious destiny."

So basically, this guy was a bad ass soldier fighting on the side of the English King in Wales, but gave up the sword when he saw an Angel (for real) on the battlefield. He gets married, lives the whole quiet life, until he fights back against the local Baron's tax-collectors. Of course there is retribution, and his entire village and family is killed in really horrible and awful ways, and it all goes down just as you expect. He swears vengeance and pretends to be a traveling punisher, basically a torturer and executioner for hire to infiltrate the Baron's estate. No, really.

Like I said, the first hour was pretty bad for several reasons, but then the second hour when Wilkin (ugh, that name) ends up in the Baron's castle got intriguing. Mostly due to the character of the Baroness, credited as "Baroness Lady Love Ventris" (no, really), who so far is fascinating and really well-acted by Flora Spencer-Longhurst. I've never heard of her, but I am impressed. I am really hoping that she will end up as more than just a love interest and will stick around for a couple more episodes to see where the show is going. Oh, and there was also some really interesting twists at the end of the premiere episode dealing with Katey Sagal's character (yes, THAT Katey Sagal) and excellent work from Stephen Moyer (Vampire Bill in True Blood!) that left me pseudo-hooked.

One warning though: there is some REALLY graphic violence here. So much so in fact that I was shocked this aired on regular cable--sure, it's not basic cable, it's FX, but still. This is the kind of stuff that you wouldn't even see on Game of Thrones. If that's something that bothers you a lot, you're going to want to avoid this show like the 14th century plague. But if you can handle it or even dig it, The Bastard Executioner might be up your alley.

The Bastard Executioner airs on Tuesdays at 10PM on FX.

There's a lot of RAWR on this show. 

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