29: And So It All Begins

The cast of Lone Star on a field (presumably in Taxes).

Hello readers! Welcome back to the fall TV season and, with it, Remote Uncontrolled. As you can see, we’re doing things a little differently this year. Instead of posting on Monday, we’re posting on Friday. Instead of a confusing “week ending” title, we’re just numbering. And while I know that our writers are the best in town (well, multiple towns), I also know that you’re here to read about the shows, so we’re organizing by show titles instead.

So welcome. If you didn’t know, this is our weekly TV round-up feature, where we all write about what we thought of the shows we watched this week. Enjoy!

Lone Star: “Pilot”

Robert: We touched on it a bit in our Fall 2010 TV episode of the podcast, but I think it’s worth reiterating that Lone Star might be the first bright shining star to take a fall this season–and that’s a damn shame. From the pilot, this well-written, well-performed show about a Texas conman who’s torn between doing what’s right and what’s necessary and what’s in his heart deserves all the acclaim it’s received, but being on Fox means that it has to do well in ratings or it’s all over. Being up against Dancing With The Stars probably wasn’t the best idea, but thankfully, Fox is giving it another week to see if it can gain any ground outside of premiere week, and that means it’s up to viewers to give it a chance. If you missed it, the pilot can be found on Fox.com, on Hulu and on iTunes as a free download. Even the show’s creator Kyle Killen took to the web with a Hail Mary effort to get people to watch. I don’t think I can make it any clearer: if you really want to stand up for good network TV, you must watch this show next Monday.

Dennis: Between Friday Night Lights and this show (which both star Adriane Palicki), I’m starting to think America isn’t ready for smart shows about people from Texas. I really enjoyed this pilot, and its lead actor (babyfaced bear cub James Wolk, may you get much much more work!) and can’t understand why this show is already in danger of being canned. Well, I do understand: It’s up against Dancing with the Sequins Decorated D-Listers, it has the thoroughly mismatched procedural House as a lead-in, and it’s on network TV and doesn’t feature doctors, lawyers or police officers. How could anyone embrace it? Is it too late for Fox to ship this to sister cable network FX? Least that network certainly knows a thing or five about nurturing shows with anti-heroes.

Glee: “Audition”

Scott: Look, I know a lot of you out there in the 18-49 target demographic hate musicals. Our world has changed drastically since the medium’s golden age of the 1940’s through the 60’s and now you need gritty, unvarnished realism to care about your entertainment! You want to know what’s going on out there in the streets, and that’s why you watch unflinching documentaries like Hoarders and Tool Academy. But for those of us who get plenty of reality from actual reality, it’s hard to top the sheer pleasure of Glee at its finest, and the season premiere this week was one of its best episodes ever. God help me, I know as a married man with a 401K and a college degree that I shouldn’t get so excited about fake Ohioan teenagers on television launching into a quasi-Pat Boone version of “Empire State of Mind”, but they when they start unleashing choreography and launch into those harmonies, resistance couldn’t be more futile (small caveat: I will be fast-forwarding through all future Artie raps). Go ahead and hate Glee if you must — just as you surely hate puppies, America and joy of all kinds — but the rest of us will be here every Tuesday night watching arguably the most refreshing show on television.

Armando: My love for this show makes as much sense as my love for Grease 1 and 2. I know. But it is what it is. And my Rachel Berry crush is still intact. I was a little worried that this show might not be able to keep the groove it was in going but I was wrong. (At least for this week)

The addition of Coach Bieste, (pronounced “Beast”) is genius. What a great character. When I first saw her, I was thinking they were going to go with making her more of a “monster” than Sue Sylvester. But fortunately, that’s not true. Once again, we see Sue and Will teaming up but by the end of the show, all is right in the world of Glee and Sue is mad at Will and his hair again. But this time, Will has a tag team partner, Coach Bieste. Who turns out, is actually quite sensitive. She is scary and funny but it is a bit touching seeing her struggle with being an outcast. Which is really, what Glee is all about.

All the music, with a slightly more new music pop slant, was above average except for the rendition of Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind”. It looked good, the choreography was great but the rap parts of the song fell flat for me.

One last note, the new character of Sunshine Corazon, Rachel’s new rival, is played by the very talented Charice. When you see her and then hear the voice that comes out of her, it is stunning. Rachel’s interactions with her were priceless.

Dennis: A wise woman once said “I should’ve left my phone at home cuz’ this is a disaster.” Ok, that wise woman was Beyonce, in the hit song “Telephone,” covered in this episode. But dammit if I’m thinking this show is as much of a disaster as ever. Sure there was a funny moment about Will rapping, but it was followed quickly by Ryan Murphy kind of eviscerating every person who’s ever said a mean thing about his show on the internet, and then, came lots of other stuff that is the reason everyone talks so much crap about this show on the internet to begin with. There was that stunt casting everyone complains about (Charice might’ve wanted to opt for acting lessons instead of that much-publicized botox to prep for this episode). And then there was that innate ability for this show to sort of advance the plot and then unadvance just as quickly (Sue and Shue are friends… or not! Quinn’s back to being head cheerleader?). Hey at least next week Britney Spears shows up. That won’t be gimmicky at all!

Community: “Anthropology 101″

Zoe: Oh, it’s good to have Community back, even an episode that’s more about exposition than anything else. Because, well, this exposition is fun. We get it established that no one much saw each other over the summer, that the gang is going to get back together, and that everyone loved Toy Story 3.

And as much as the show (validly) wants to move away from the romantic entanglement plots, it needed to be dealt with here. As much as I enjoyed Jeff and Britta’s competitive relationship, I was a little sad they dismissed Annie with “oh, but she’s so young and naive”. She is, but frankly Jeff and Annie are a lot of fun together and part of why that works is her maturity, which got wiped away a bit last night.

No matter. The show continues to have an incredibly realistic (in my experience) Jeff/Britta dynamic and yes, it still brings the funny. Not that I ever doubted it.

Armando: I love Community. It’s my favorite thing to watch on TV right now.

  • Batman and Shaft
  • Old White Man Says – “half a hat, it saves money”
  • Senor Chang is now a student.
  • Betty White is kind of funny.
  • Especially when she makes a super weapon out of 9 individual weapons and attacks Jeff with it.
  • I still love Abed’s TV/movie/pop culture obsession.
  • Toy Story 3
  • Troy thinks all dogs are male and all cats are female. Have you ever seen a cat’s penis?
  • The Irish Singer
  • Annie’s Punch
  • Betty White dropping the term “dirt roaded” and Senor Chang saying “using it”
  • Senor Chang’s inner dialogue, Gollum style.

P.S. This episode made me laugh until I cried.

Boardwalk Empire: “Pilot”

Paul: Despite being Editor-at-Large and considering myself a pretty avid fan of if not capital-T Television then certainly Serial Narratives, I’ve done a pretty piss-poor job of representing that here on good ol’ SPJ. But that ends tonight! Because I like suits, and also Prohibition-era schtick, so obviously I’m watching Boardwalk Empire. And as with any pilot, this first episode was both revealing and opaque. What I found interesting was the almost Walter White-like position of Steve Buscemi’s “Nucky” Thompson–a man who, sure, has maybe dabbled in some graft here and there to get to where he is, but is surely no more than half a gangster. But then some things happen, and he’s all-in. Highlights of the pilot include the show not making us wait for more than a few scenes to see Mrs. Schroeder’s abusive husband get what’s coming to him, and ambitious underling Jimmy Darmody introducing himself to fellow ambitious underling Al Capone. And suits. Lots and lots of suits.

Rubicon: “No Honesty In Men”

Scott: Far be it from me to crap on something people are enjoying, but I don’t believe anybody is honestly enjoying Rubicon . You’ll read lots of TV tastemakers falling over themselves to insist that they like it. “Really, seriously… it’s good! It’s… it’s deliberately paced… but I like it! Really!” It’s impossible for this show to inspire passion though, because it’s sooooooooooo slooooooooooowwwww. That’s not to say that Rubicon sucks; I’d probably give this season as a whole a B-. There’s a lot to like, especially on a character level. Its most mysterious characters, Michael Cristofer’s Truxton Spangler and Arliss Howard’s Kale Ingram (such awesome names!), are a joy to watch every second they’re onscreen, especially because Cristofer and Howard play them as quirky, oddly endearing weirdos who just happen to have decades of black ops experience and could probably murder you with a Nerf football. I’m caught up in the travails of the show’s central team, who grapple with messy private lives and moral crises when their jobs result in people, sometimes lots of people, being tortured or killed. But the show’s center — 9/11 widower Will Travers, recent widow Katherine Rhumor and the central conspiracy they’re investigating that may reveal a hidden fourth branch of government — is a narrative black hole that is uncovered in ridiculous ways (crossword puzzles, four leaf clovers) by very boring people. James Badge Dale and Miranda Richardson are fine actors, but the characters they’ve been given to play are completely blank slates given the cheapest pity-bait motivation imaginable: a dead family. Imagine how much better this show would be with Lauren Hodges’ addict Tanya or Dallas Roberts’ fidgety Miles at its center.

Castle: “A Deadly Affair”

Robert: For a show that almost didn’t make it past its first season, Castle has turned out to be quite the surprise. It’s got a great cast with great chemistry and as I’ve said in the past, manages to walk that tricky line between being morbid and laugh-out-loud funny. And yet, with this season’s premiere, Castle has started to break logic more than bend it. Almost in real time, we return to the precinct a few months after last season’s finale and find Beckett and crew investigating a murder when they find Castle at the scene of the crime. I’ll give Fillion his natural charm, but I don’t know if even he can both talk his way out of being a suspect and manage to become part of the investigation. Nevertheless, through some deductive (and lazily-written, to be honest) reasoning of his own, he figures out the case and leads Beckett to the real killer, and now we’re neatly back to where things were last season. It’s a bit convoluted and a little too trite, but as a fan of the show, I can only hope it finally decides to start doing something new with the premise.

The Event: “I Haven’t Told You Everything”

Armando: First things first. It’s no LOST. It’s easy to see the heavy handed “inspiration” from shows like LOST, 24, and The 4400. The first episode was definitely more spectacle and not very much character development. It’s slightly above average cheesy sci-fi at best. Definitely nowhere near being as good or captivating as LOST but better than say, Heroes (which isn’t saying much).

For sure it’s hold your hand entertainment but you know what? I liked it. I enjoyed it much like I enjoy Haven on Syfy which I am a big fan of.

Is it on the same level as LOST or something like The Wire? Absolutely not. Is that a bad thing? Absolutely not. It’s a keeper on the DVR series list. If only to see if it can avoid the crash and burn of Flash Forward and how much fun they can make it (like driving by a car accident).

Raising Hope: “Pilot”

Dennis: Now that Chuck Lorre’s moved from Roseanne and Grace Under Fire to Two and a Half Sleezeballs and Big Bang nerds, I’m ready to declare the creator of My Name is Earl and this show, Greg Garcia, the new King of Blue Collar TV. I find the pilot cute (much like the baby at the show’s center) enough, and the acting pedigree (Martha Plimpton, Cloris Leachman, Garrett Dillahunt) commendable enough, that I’ll tune in for episode two!

Parenthood: “No Good Deed”

Armando: Back when this show debuted, and I was worried that it might clash with Modern Family, I said that “…Modern Family is the more funny, quick snapshot of today’s family and the not so always “normal” events that happen in our day to day family activities, while Parenthood is the broad strokes of the more dramatic wall painting of an extended families lives.”

Ever since then, I no longer watch Modern Family as I feel is has become a parody of itself and is now trying to hard and comes off forced.

And Parenthood, it has become one of my favorite shows to watch. I enjoy the tone and approach to the everyday family issues we all face. And that not every one of these issues is an earth shattering event. But rather just the things that happens as families grown and evolve.

The only storyline in the show I am not enjoying is the Crosby/Jasmine relationship. While I do enjoy watching Crosby become a father, I’m pretty tired of Jasmine and her dance career. First NY, now Europe. You can see the set up for Crosby falling out of that relationship and into another. Most likely with the Minka Kelly character. The development of the characters and the amount of time they spend with each one along with the different story lines and situations are handled very well. Not too much. Not too little.

Running Wilde: “Pilot”

Dennis: After Sit Down, Shut Up, Mitch Hurwitz really needs to prove Arrested Development wasn’t a (brilliant) fluke (though being a writer on The Golden Girls always gets points from me), and I don’t think the first episode of Running Wilde is making that case right now. After unfunny promos surfaced earlier this summer, expectations were set kind of low for me. Still, with Keri Russell and Will Arnett as insanely watchable as they are, this show has to get better, right? Right? And now that that little girl can speak, the annoying voiceover will go away, right? Right?

My Generation: “Pilot”

Armando: A faux documentary about a faux reality show that actually works in an actual reality show of the network it’s on? This is me rolling my eyes.

This is one of the worst shows I have ever seen in my life. If there are actual people on earth who act like the characters on this show then we have failed as a human race. It’s like one really long TV commercial where the characters speak in cliched quips.

If you want to see a show a group of ABC executives dreamed up on the 30th floor of some building way above reality, watch My Generation.

30 Rock: “The Fabian Strategy”

Zoe: Except for the very uncomfortable and offensive marital rape joke, this was a stellar 30 Rock premiere! Which is damning with the faintest of praise, but I mean it. There’s no denying that 30 Rock, like most shows, lost some of it’s impact. But last night was good, because not only was it fun (and funny), but it expanded the characters. Liz and Jack and in relationships that seem to work for them! Jenna is competent! Pete is a rapist! Sorry, apparently not willing to let that one go. Overall, it was fun and a decent way to drop into the new season. Hopefully this keeps up.

Oh, and Kenneth was there. And I didn’t care. Can we just drop him for the time being, please?

The Middle: “Back to School”

Dennis: Interesting that I find Running Wilde’s voiceover so cloying, but don’t mind it here. Thanks to a useless Top Chef reunion, I missed Modern Family (basking in its Emmy glow) and the under-appreciated (wouldn’t be a Roundtable without me mentioning that) Cougar Town, but I did catch the return of this precious little show. Doris Roberts guest starred, reuniting with her Everybody Loves Raymond co-star Patricia Heaton, but I never actually liked Raymond, so I couldn’t care about that. The draw of this show for me is totally youngest kid Brick, who spent the episode bummed out that his mom threw out his best friend… an old dirty backpack. Doesn’t get any weirder/greater than that!

Bones: “The Mastodon in the Room”

Zoe: I touch on this in an upcoming podcast, but I really, really wish that more shows were willing to end. What my issues with LOST, I do appreciated that once it picked an end point it stuck with it and saw it out. If only my formerly beloved Bones had done that.

I’m not sure what part made me roll my eyes more: Daisy wearing her underwear in the jungle or Booth’s lecture from the local lady in Afghanistan. All I know is before the credits had even rolled, I had sighed all my breath away and rolled my eyes nearly out of my head. Not. A. Good. Sign. The episode wasn’t bad, really, it was just a cruddy wet noodle. The show, starting last year and continuing, feels like it’s being written by entirely different people, people who have only had human relationships and the characters described to them.

No matter. It is what it is now. I’m just not sure if what it is will be something I want to watch anymore.

Top Chef: Just Desserts: “Cocktail with a Twist”

Dennis: I enjoy me some Top Chef: Original Recipe (also a recent, and much deserved, Emmy recipient), and eagerly await its All Stars season in December, but I’m already all set on this show two episodes in. Somewhere around the point in this episode where Ethan burst into tears over a disastrous candy challenge, or his sick mother, or something, exclaiming that “the red hots were for my mommy,” I knew it was just about time to check out. I didn’t, though. I stayed watching Ethan have a few more ridiculously emotional and emotionally ridiculous moments as I realized that Bravo was trying to cater (unintentional food pun!) to the Real Housewives trainwreck crowd instead of the foodie Chef crowd. As the kids used to say, I’m blowin this popsicle stand…

[And if you want to know what Don Draper and Co. are up to this week, be sure and check out our Angry Fellas feature.]

9 responses to “29: And So It All Begins

  1. Armando, I have an inexplicable appreciation for Grease and Grease 2 too!

    I read something recently online where a guy was saying that his wife had given up on Glee because she hated musicals and he had given up on Glee because he loved musicals. I guess I fall in the latter category of dissenters. Even if it made me cranky, glad to see you and Scott enjoyed it.

  2. I gave My Generation a try and it’s such a labored attempt to appeal to someone who isn’t 28 years old. It comes across like a cross between a history lesson for anyone under 20 and a sort of trip down memory lane for anyone over 30. Except it’s neither, really.

    It’s weird how every character and their lot in life gets radically altered all at the ten year mark, just as the fictional camera crews show up again. I actually like the characters of Steven and Falcon (yeah, that’s his name) and how they at least talk like real people might talk. Everyone else is clearly “acting” their parts like they’re in a TV show.

    And speaking of which, I get that it’s supposed to be a documentary, but I’ve never seen a documentary where the subjects acknowledge the camera as much as they do in this show, and it isn’t even real.

  3. Zoe: Totally agree with you w/r/t the terrible marital rape joke in 30 Rock. Marred what was otherwise a pretty good episode, but… ugh. Poor form.