Saturday, November 14, 2015
I signed up for Netflix a couple of months ago. There’s a whole story about being Canadian streaming video and how it’s a different experience from the one that Americans face, but that’s for another time. Generally the Netflix experience has been an enjoyable one even though I haven’t been binge watching every show available on on the service, the way we’re apparently supposed to. I usually end up watching one or two shows a night, depending on the night, but sticking with them until I’ve seen all of the available episodes.
Saturday night, after watching Ocean’s 13 (nowhere near as enjoyable as either version of Ocean’s 11 or even Ocean’s 12) I decided that I felt like a comedy. I’ve gone through the first season of Grace & Frankie which I loved so I decided that I’d try Aziz Ansari’s new series Master Of None. I had seen the rave reviews that the series had received from everybody from the New York Times to Vogue Magazine which basically called it hilarious and the greatest thing since sliced bread, or at least the greatest comedy of this year (okay, so admittedly that’s not a high bar to clear based on what the broadcast networks came up with this season. Or last season. I figured I’d give it a try and see what all the fuss was about.
I watched about half the first episode.
That’s why I’m not reviewing Master of None; my cardinal rule of reviewing anything is that you can’t give an informed opinion of anything if you only experience a portion of if. What I can tell you is why I stopped watching it. I didn’t find it funny. More importantly I didn’t find anything or anyone that I could latch onto that could hold my interest. Ansari and the three characters at the start of the episode (after his little tryst and subsequent trip to the pharmacy) were self-absorbed, self-involved, self-satisfied a--holes. There discussion of children and the impact that having children would have was enough to make me want to bludgeon all three of them so that they wouldn’t have children. An example of this was when Ansari was talking about how being a parent would keep him from having pasta. He wants pasta but having a kid means that he has to stay at home to look after the kid so he can’t have pasta. When it’s pointed out that people with kids actually have pasta, the response is that they’re just eating their kid’s Spaghetti-os. I managed to make it a few minutes longer to when Ansari and his buddy Brian were at the party for a one year-old (Brian hogs the bouncy house and gets mad because a kid in there prevents him from getting “his bounce on”) before I said to hell with this and looked for an episode of What’s My Line (with Fred Allen!) on YouTube.
The thing I look for when I’m watching most TV shows is something to hold my interest. This is usually a character that I can feel some empathy for, or sympathy for, or a situation that catches my interest. That’s what got me hooked on The Big Bang Theory from the start; I felt an empathy for Leonard being in love with someone who – at least at the beginning – had no romantic feelings for him. Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt too many times. The initial mystery got me into How To Get Away With Murder, but I dropped the show recently – after the initial mystery was solved – because I didn’t like any of the characters. Actually I thought that all of the main characters should be arrested and have the keys to their cells thrown away. Having eliminated the thing that got me interested in the show it had to hold me with the characters and it didn’t have any characters that I felt any empathy or sympathy for. As far as Master of None goes, I felt nothing for Ansari or his friend who monopolized the bouncy house which was as far as I got into the regular characters.
So here’s the thing. I know I have the right to say that I didn’t like what I saw of this show. I can express a personal opinion just as well as anyone.The fact that I can give reasons – or at least I can reasonably cogently explain – why I dislike the show is even better. The problem I have is with being the voice in the wilderness; the guy who says “I hate this,” when everyone else says that “this is genius.” It bothers me because I want to know why I am this out of step with things.
(By the way I’m not kidding about “everyone” liking this show. It has an approval rating of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a score of 91 on Metacritics with all 28 critical reviews being positive.)
There are probably a lot of reasons why I didn’t rave about this show. I have always stated that I don’t really like most comedies, with a particular distaste for Seinfeld and shows that remind me of it (and boy did Master of None remind me of Seinfeld). Then, as I have said, there is the high annoyance factor that I felt about the characters that I’ve seen. Maybe the show and Ansari would have shown me something if I’d watched more of the episode or a different episode of the series or more episodes of the series? Maybe you have to watch all ten episodes to truly appreciate the show’s genius. The question then becomes whether that is necessarily a good thing, but that’s an issue for another time. Clearly I don’t know enough about the show to deliver a truly informed impression, which is why I didn’t label this as a review of the show.
But there is a nagging doubt in my mind, and that is that I can’t truly appreciate this show because at 59 years of age I am far away from being the target audience of this show. Mark Peikert of The Wrap wrote the following: “Master of None is more articulate than any other show at putting under a microscope that generation’s neuroses, desires, and ambivalence. The series also happens to be sexy, hilarious, and very moving, a tribute to Ansari’s observational powers and ability to pinpoint the zeitgeist.” But if the reason that I can’t appreciate this show is because I can’t insinuate myself into “that generation’s neuroses, desires, and ambivalence,” is it valid for me to try to review shows for a general audience?
Saturday, September 19, 2015
So what are these rules? They’re actually pretty simple:
Rule 1: Winners win….until you know, they don’t.
The Emmys are unique among entertainment awards shows in that the same show or people can win year after year. The equivalent at the Oscars would be for last year’s Best Picture winner to win again this year. It doesn’t happen at the Tonys, the Grammys or the Oscars, just the Emmys and any other awards show that touches on TV. And the Emmys tend to give awards to previous season’s winners.
Rule 2: The “Hot New Thing” can overturn previous season’s winners, but it’s the academy that decide what the hot new thing is.
Funny thing about the TV awards. The people who choose the nominees and who vote for the winners don’t actually watch a hell of a lot of TV. TV critics (the pros) watch a lot of TV but the people at the TV academy are too busy working making TV shows to actually watch TV shows on a regular basis. What they know about what’s hot and what’s not is generally based on ratings and buzz and whatever they decide is “quality” TV this year.
Rule 3: Premium cable trumps basic cable which trumps broadcast TV.
And by premium cable I mean HBO. This year HBO had 40 nominations, while Showtime had nine and Cinemax (!) had one. Those 40 nominations for HBO were greater than ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC combined although when you factor PBS into the mix it is greater. We don’t know yet were streaming video factors into this except to say that while they get more nominations than The CW, Amazon and Netflix have had very limited success.
Rule 4: Fantasy and Science Fiction don’t win… unless they come from HBO.
In fact Fantasy and Science Fiction shows almost never get nominations unless they’re on HBO. Battlestar Galactica may have been one of the best shows on all of TV during its run but never earned a Primetime Emmy nomination. Creative Arts Emmys sure, but not Emmy’s from Writing, Directing or Acting, let alone Outstanding Drama Series which are the categories being awarded on Sunday.
Let’s take a look at the series and acting categories and apply the rules. I’ll put the rule number that applies to the person or show beside their name.
Outstanding Supporting Actor Comedy
- Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, FOX (2)
- Titus Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Netflix (2)
- Ty Burrell, Modern Family, ABC (1)
- Adam Driver, Girls, HBO (3)
- Tony Hale, Veep, HBO (1, 3)
- Keegan-Michael Key, Key and Peele, Comedy Central
Outstanding Supporting Actress Comedy
- Mayim Bialik, Big Bang Theory, CBS
- Julie Bowen, Modern Family, ABC (1)
- Anna Chlumsky, Veep, HBO (3)
- Gaby Hoffman, Transparent, Amazon (2)
- Allison Janney, Mom, CBS (1)
- Jane Krakowski, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Netflix (2)
- Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live, NBC
- Niecy Nash, Getting On, HBO (3)
Outstanding Supporting Actor Drama
- Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul, AMC (2)
- Jim Carter, Downton Abbey, PBS
- Alan Cumming, The Good Wife, CBS
- Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones, HBO (1,3,4)
- Michael Kelly, House of Cards, Netflix
- Ben Mendelsohn, Bloodline, Netflix
Outstanding Supporting Actress Drama
- Uzo Aduba, Orange Is the New Black, Netflix
- Christine Baranski, The Good Wife, CBS
- Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones, HBO (3, 4)
- Joanne Froggatt, Downton Abbey, PBS
- Lena Headey, Game of Thrones, HBO (3, 4)
- Christina Hendricks, Mad Men, AMC
Outstanding Lead Actor Comedy
- Anthony Anderson, Black-ish, ABC (2)
- Don Cheadle, House of Lies, Showtime (3)
- Louis C.K., Louie, FX (3)
- Will Forte, The Last Man on Earth, Fox (2)
- Matt LeBlanc, Episodes, Showtime (3)
- William H. Macy, Shameless, Showtime (3)
- Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent, Amazon (2)
Outstanding Lead Actress Comedy
- Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie, Showtime (1,3)
- Lisa Kudrow, The Comeback, HBO (3)
- Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep, HBO (1,3)
- Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation, NBC
- Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer, Comedy Central (2)
- Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie, Netflix
Outstanding Lead Actor Drama
- Kyle Chandler, Bloodline, Netflix
- Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom, HBO (1, 3)
- Jon Hamm, Mad Men, AMC
- Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul, AMC (2)
- Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan, Showtime (3)
- Kevin Spacey, House of Cards, Netflix
Outstanding Lead Actress Drama
- Claire Danes, Homeland, Showtime (1, 3)
- Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder, ABC (2)
- Taraji P. Henson, Empire, Fox (2)
- Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black, BBC America (4)
- Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men, AMC
- Robin Wright, House of Cards, Netflix
Outstanding Comedy Series
- Louie, FX
- Modern Family, ABC (1)
- Parks and Recreation, NBC
- Silicon Valley, HBO (3)
- Transparent, Amazon (2)
- Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Netflix
- Veep, HBO (3)
Outstanding Drama Series
- Better Call Saul, AMC (2)
- Downton Abbey, PBS
- Game of Thrones, HBO (3, 4)
- Homeland, Showtime (1, 3)
- House of Cards, Netflix
- Mad Men, AMC (1)
- Orange Is the New Black, Netflix
The 67th Annual Emmy Awards will be seen Sunday, September 20 on FOX. Watch this space to see how well I and the “rules” I came up with do.
Update: The rules had a .600 Batting Average which is really rather good, although I will have to tinker with them more for next year. Details to follow.
Sunday, June 28, 2015
I just started a new blog called That’s What I Think About That. Don’t bother going there yet; there’s nothing there yet. It’s a work in progress that hasn’t progressed very much. What I wanted was a place where I can vent my spleen over things that don’t exactly fit into a blog focussed on TV. Like the US Supreme Court ruling on Same Sex Marriage and the reactions of some people to that decision. Or NHL expansion to Las Vegas and other places. Or the wrong-headedness of fixed election dates in Canada.
Posting at the new blog will be sporadic – which I know is a big joke give the way this blog has gone of late. Still this is a way for me to put my opinions out there with the illusion that someone might read it. But it’s mostly just for me.
Thursday, May 14, 2015
Title says it all. It was related to two factor authentication from Google and the need for a Google generated password to access Google websites with third-party, non-browser tools. Complicated and I tend to like things that are simple.
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
I am officially having problems posting to this blog.
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
As always NBC led off the upfront season although unlike in previous years they chose to introduce their new line-up on a Sunday rather than the traditional Monday. By turns the new offerings are vaguely intriguing, yawn worthy, and disappointing. First the cancellations (some of which were in the “blink and you’ve missed it” category of midseason replacements).
Constantine, State of Affairs, Marry Me, About A Boy, One Big Happy, A to Z, Allegiance, Bad Judge, Parenthood, Park & Recreation, Working The Engels
Renewed (not counting summer series)
Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, Grimm, Hollywood Game Night, Law & Order SVU, Biggest Loser, The Blacklist, Celebrity Apprentice, The Mysteries of Laura, Undateable
Before Christmas: Blindspot, Heartbreaker, The Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris, Heroes Reborn, The Player, People Are Talking
Midseason: Coach, Hot And Bothered, Chicago Med, Crowded, Emerald City, Game of Silence, Little Big Shots, Shades of Blue, Superstore, You And Me And The End Of The World
Fall Schedule by day
8-10 p.m. The Voice
10-11 p.m. BLINDSPOT
8-9 p.m. The Voice
9-10 p.m. HEARTBREAKER
10-11 p.m. THE BEST TIME EVER WITH NEIL PATRICK HARRIS (until November)
Chicago Fire (starting in November)
8-9 p.m. The Mysteries of Laura
9-10 p.m. Law & Order SVU
10-11 p.m. Chicago PD
8-9 p.m. HEROES REBORN
9-10 p.m. The Blacklist
10-11 p.m. THE PLAYER
8-8:30 p.m. Undateable
8:30-9 p.m. PEOPLE ARE TALKING
9-10 p.m. Grimm
10-11 p.m. Dateline
I’ve managed to see the trailers for most of these despite YouTube region blocking so I shall try to summarize largely without Network press releases (except for actor names).
Blindspot begins with a bag left in the middle of Time Square with a tag that says “Call FBI.” Inside is a naked woman (Jamie Alexander) covered with tattoos, all of which are new. “Jane Doe” has been stripped of her memories and has no idea who she is or why her body is covered in tattoos. One tattoo says to call FBI Agent Kurt Weller (Sullivan Stapleton) who has no idea why he’s being called in on this case or why his name is written in large letters on Jane Doe’s back, or for that matter the meaning of the tattoos. Over time several things become apparent: the tattoos on Jane’s back represent clues to crimes that they are to solve, and that Jane has considerable skills that she hasn’t forgotten that will help them solve those crimes.
Heartbreaker stars Melissa George as Dr. Alex Pantierre, one of a handful of female heart transplant surgeons in the world. She is also the head of new technologies at her hospital. As usual in medical dramas she is someone who breaks the rules if it can possibly help her patients and is more than willing to try innovative procedures when necessary. Also as usual in medical dramas (particularly medical dramas with female leads) she struggles to balance her professional life with her personal life.
NBC didn’t do a trailer for The Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris, so I’ll have to go to the network press release: “Complete with stunts, skits, pranks, audience interaction, musical numbers, giveaways and unlimited surprises, this show proves that anything can happen, and it can happen to you. Based on the wildly popular British hit Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway.”
There also isn’t a trailer for Heroes Reborn beyond a few teasers from the Super Bowl in February which basically announced that the show would be coming back – as a 13 episode miniseries. As I understand it, some but not all of the original cast (including Jack Coleman and Masi Oka) will be returning for the mini-series while new people with powers will be emerging, most notably Zach Levi from Chuck.
The Player starts with an interesting concept. Philip Winchester plays Alex Kane, Las Vegas’s top – and most flamboyant – security expert. Following the murder of his wife, Alex is drawn into a complex game. In a city where people will bet on anything, the ultimate game is betting on whether Alex can stop a crime from taking place, or even survive the tasks put before him. In this “game” the house consists of three people: Alex – the Player, Cassandra King (Charity Wakefield) – the Dealer, and the mysterious Mr. Johnson (Wesley Snipes) – the Pit Boss. If Alex is able to accomplish the tasks put before him, he might just be able to get revenge for the death of his wife.
One thing I’ve noticed in going over the NBC shows that have been cancelled and renewed is just how few NBC shows I watched in the past season. I watched State Of Affairs and mostly didn’t find it as laughable as I had expected given that it was Katherine Heigl as a CIA agent who advised the President on national security threats. And yet I don’t find myself mourning its passing. I watched Chicago Fire and Chicago PD for quite a while but in the past year or so I’ve basically given up on those as well. Basically the only thing I watch on NBC is The Blacklist.
The biggest thing to note is the near absence of situation comedy in the fall line-up. Not counting the Neil Patrick Harris series, which sounds like it might turn into something of a mess, the only comedies in the line-up are the returning Undateable and the new People Are Talking. It is something of a sign that the only two comedies at the start of the season are both scheduled for Friday night before Grimm. Setting aside the fact that this is the “Friday night death slot” (because after all CBS at least seems to thrive on Fridays) People are Talking at least definitely doesn’t fall into the NBC comedy tradition as exemplified by Seinfeld, Fraser, The Office, Community, and Parks And Recreation. Then again the latter two series didn’t exactly set the ratings world on fire. Moreover last season, when NBC made a major push to do sit coms, the results were pretty disastrous with most of the shows dying a quick and for the most part well-deserved death. Based on the trailer that I saw, People Are Talking seems to be playing things very safe which is far different from the edgy sort of comedy that we generally expect from NBC.
Blindspot and The Player both seem interesting although they also seem to be trying to replicate the success of NBC’s one big drama success that isn’t produced by Dick Wolf, namely The Blacklist. Blindspot is probably closest to what The Blacklist in that there’s quite obviously a massive conspiracy behind the scenes that “Jane Doe” and Agent Weller will have to unravel. The question is whether audiences will have the patience to stick with the show if it is an unrelenting in pursuing the show’s mytharc, particularly when the show is opposite the “simpler” NCIS: Los Angeles and Castle. Initially at least The Player seems likely to be more episodic and therefore easier to access for viewers. Plus it has The Blacklist as a lead in, although the ratings for that show have been slipping, probably because it is going against Scandal and CBS comedies on Thursday night.
I’m not sure what to say about Heartbreaker. The whole thing of the female lead being forced to balance her personal and professional lives is such a cliché. Take that away and I’m not sure there’s enough there for the show to engage its audience. I wonder if this is meant as a placeholder to be replaced, when it inevitably crashes and burns, with Dick Wolf’s latest opus, Chicago Medical.
Finally something needs to be said about the revival of Heroes as Heroes Reborn. I don’t know why it’s happening given how quickly and totally the show collapsed in it’s first run. The cynic in me says that executives at NBC looked at the success of the Marvel movie/TV franchises (including Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), not to mention Arrow and The Flash and even iZombie on The CW and said: “We need a superhero show. Okay so we blew it with Constantine but superheroes are still hot. Let’s take another run at doing Heroes. We’ll do it as a limited series, and if it works out maybe we’ll bring it back in 2016 as a full series.” And since I can’t think of a better reason why they revived this, I think the cynical view wins.
Final assessment of what NBC is giving us: there’s very little here that I actually find engaging. There are a couple of shows that I’ll try but I honestly don’t think much of their chances for survival. Nothing here strikes me as a genuine sustainable hit.
Saturday, May 10, 2014
Before I started this blog, the whole business of “Network Upfronts” was as foreign as the Greek language to me. All I knew is that sometime in May the US networks would announce their new shows and cancel the unsuccessful ones from the previous year, and then the Canadian networks would pick them over to find the “best of the lot” for us, and conveniently forget that half of the shows that they considered the “best of the lot” were either cancelled by the end of the season.
Upfronts used to be the day when a Network President and his (and they were all men for a long time) would stand in front of the assembled masses of advertisers and the ink-stained wretches from the entertainment media and announce which shows have been cancelled and which have been picked up, and what next season’s TV schedule would look like. The advertisers would then – over the next few weeks – decide what shows they’d make their media buys on, and how much they’d be willing to pay. Meanwhile the entertainment media would, wittingly or not, promote the new shows with information even thought they’d basically only seen the few clips provided by the network at the Upfronts. The key point was that the networks announced all of their changes at their Upfront day.
In recent years things have changed. Networks announce their renewals and their cancellations before the Upfronts – days and sometimes even weeks before – and they’ve taken to announcing shows they’ve picked up in advance as well. In the past I’ve held off from reporting or commenting on these announcements, preferring to wait until a network’s upfront day. I’m not sure that that approach is practical anymore. So what I’ve decided to do is to list the cancellations and the pickups before the upfronts, and comment on the percentage of available time that the proposed new shows will be taking up on each network.
Cancellations: The Assets, Back In The Game, Killer Women, Lucky 7, Mind Games, Once Upon A Time In Wonderland, Mixology, Trophy Wife, Betrayal, The Neighbors, Super Fun Night, Suburgatory,
Status Unknown: The Taste, Black Box
Picked Up: Dramas – American Crime, The Astronauts Wives Club,The Club, Forever, How To Get Away With Murder, Marvel’s Agent Carter, Secrets & Lies, The Whispers
Comedies – Black-ish, Galavant, Manhattan Love Story, Selfie
Update: Two comedies that I missed: Cristela and Fresh Off The Boat which were announced at the same time as the renewal of Last Man Standing.
Comments: Eight hours of Dramas, four half-hours of Comedies. I was saddened but not surprised by the cancellation of Trophy Wife. The kids, and in particular Burt, were great and it was fun to see Bradley Whitford playing straight man both to the kids and the women in his life. If this show had a better time slot – like between The Middle and Modern Family instead of after another newcomer, The Goldbergs – I think it could have worked.
Cancellations: How I Met Your Mother, We Are Men, Bad Teacher, The Crazy Ones, Friends With Better Lives, Hostages, Intelligence
Picked Up: Dramas – Battle Creek, CSI: Cyber, Madam Secretary, NCIS: New Orleans, Scorpion, Stalker
Comedies – The McCarthys, The Odd Couple
Comments: Six hours of Dramas, two half-hours of Comedies. Only two survivors of the new shows, Mom and The Millers. I think that the limited series nature of Hostages was a bad choice to go against Castle, and Intelligence was just pretty bad. Disappointed that the cut The Crazy Ones, a series with a stand-out cast that I really enjoyed. Unfortunately stand-out cast equals expensive cast, which was probably as much a cause of the show’s demise as the ratings.
Cancellations: American Dad (moving to TBS), The Cleveland Show, Raising Hope, The X-Factor, Almost Human, Dads, Enlisted, Surviving Jack, Rake
Picked Up: Dramas – Backstrom, Empire, Gotham, Hieroglyph, Red Band Society
Comedies – Last Man On Earth, Mulaney, Weird Loners
Comments: Five hours of Dramas, three half-hours of Comedies. All of the professional TV critics are mourning the loss of Enlisted but I never saw the show (because the premise sounded dumb to me) so I can’t comment. I really liked Almost Human, the “cop and robot” buddy show set in a not totally dystopian future. It wasn’t great but I liked it better than THe Following. So sue me.
Cancellations: Ironside, Sean Saves The World, Welcome To The Family, The Michael J. Fox Show, Believe, Community, Crisis, Dracula, Revolution, Growing Up Fisher
Status Unknown: Parenthood
Picked Up: Dramas – Allegiance, Constantine, Emerald City, The Mysteries of Laura, Odyssey, Shades Of Blue, State of Affairs
Comedies – A to Z, Bad Judge, Marry Me, Mission Control, Mr. Robinson, One Big Happy, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Comments: Seven hours of Dramas, seven half-hours of Comedy. It is a mark of how far NBC has fallen that I can’t think of one show that they cancelled that I am really going to miss. I know the professional critics and a devoted fan base loved Community with a love that burned like the Sun, but I never watched it, being totally turned off by the presence of Chevy Chase. BTW, there apparently hasn't been a decision on Parenthood because of negotiations over the number of episodes stars of the show will appear in. The network weasels want the leads to do nine episodes of the total of thirteen planned, and they're balking at that idea
Update: While the renewal of Parenthood has not been announced officially, the cast have apparently agreed to a deal which would see them each participate in a reduced number of episodes within a 13 episode season, thus allowing the series to have a resolution.
Cancellations: Nikita, The Carrie Diaries, The Tomorrow People, Star Crossed
Picked Up: The Flash, iZombie, Jane The Virgin, The Messengers
Comments: Four hours of new series, all Dramas. Yawn. The only show I watch on The CW is Arrow. I suppose I’m sort of surprised that a show about 16th century royalty and religious wars (Reign) got renewed, and I suppose that The 100 is the sort of show I generally like but really, I’ve got nothing.